“A Hero lies in you…”

November 5, 2011

It’s been a rough year – one of the toughest of my life.

Almost everything in my life has been in breakdown. It started right before the beginning of the year when I found out my ex-husband was getting married – the getting married part wasn’t the breakdown, it was the realizing how bonded I was to him so that his getting married really threw me. He thought it wouldn’t make a difference. I realized I didn’t want to be talking to someone else’s husband almost every day – even if he used to be mine.

Then my business took a nose-dive and deals I was counting on never came through – that was more than a “Whoops!” – it was, “What do I do now? Where do I go now?”

Need I go on? You’ve all been there – when it seems like nothing you do is right and it seems like you are really on the outside looking into a life that you know you should be living, but it occurs as “Well, now, how do I generate today after that THING that happened yesterday…?”

It’s what happens after that makes the difference: Every day for almost a year now, I’ve awakened in the morning to nightmares and that awful voice we all have, saying “Well, you blew it …” That’s when I create my day, the way I learned how to do, first with Transcendental Meditation, which I’ve been doing for 37 years, then with tools I learned from “A Course in Miracles” and Landmark Education. I’m really clear that we create our lives – whatever is there is a reflection of the way we’re thinking – and when all is going wrong, instead of looking out there, I know to look IN HERE!

Thankfully, every breakdown can lead to a breakthrough – and, so, for every right hook that’s thrown me sprawing on the mat, I’ve been able to get that breakthrough in my heart, where it matters – and pick myself back up with a new context for my life. Every day.

It’s not easy, but it sure is worth it.

Yes, having my ex-husband get married was life altering – and good thing!   We were too bonded together. I’ve wondered for years why I wasn’t interested in being in another relationship, and that knock-down last December helped me realize why – I had no space for anyone else in my life because Fred was too much in it!

As for career, I’ve been coaching people for years – if what you’re doing isn’t bliss for you, find out what is and do it.  Trouble is – I wasn’t taking my own advice.

Soooo….  I started my book proposal in May and finished it on October 6th – the deadline to have it into Hay House to be considered for a publishing contract. I’ve wanted to tell my story for years and kept putting it off in the name of making money. Those deals falling through were my “kick in the pants” to make me say, “Time to take on what I love, what I know I’m here for…”

I don’t think I would have finished the book proposal if I’d been making a lot of money last Spring – what’s that expression? “Change does not from comfort come.” I knew the Universe wouldn’t support me unless I was doing my heart’s desire – and writing is that for me.

The message in all of this is – pick yourself up and do what you love. No complaints, no gossip, be happy every day no matter what happens – there are blessings in everything and everybody, even if you don’t like what they’re doing right now. There are blessings everywhere — right inside the lessons.  That’s what it is to live in Grace.

I know that the place to stay centered is in me – in my heart, in my faith, in my love. I’ve created myself as “unoffendable” and I live by that – most of the time.  I know that people are just doing what they’re doing and it doesn’t mean anything about me.   And, spiritually?   It doesn’t mean anything about them either!  REALLY.    They’re just trying to survive in their own way.   It doesn’t mean anything.  AND, we make it mean something, right?  And, what we make it mean is never good about us. That voice inside my head never says, “Oh, Linda!  You are simply divine!”   (Although, I AM!)   It reminds me of Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” when she says, “The bad stuff is easier to believe. Ever notice that?”

Ever notice that?

I think about who I would have to be “being” for the bad stuff not to mean anything – and it turns out, if I can remember that I’m part of God and God is part of me, then I could be Being Holiness. And, when I come from Being Holiness and I think, “If I were being holiness, how would I see this situation?  How would I see this person?”   Try it.   What comes up is always compassion – and that’s what I want to live from all the time.

A hero lies in me.   And in you.  We get to choose whether to find that strength and compassion and love deep within — in the face of no agreement — or not.

Deliciously yours in the Courage of it All,  Linda

“And then a hero comes along

With the strength to carry on

And you cast your fears aside

And you know you can survive

So when you feel like hope is gone

Look inside you and be strong

And you’ll finally see the truth

That a hero lies in you.”      From “Hero” by Mariah Carey

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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Since posting my review on Linda Leaming’s book, “Married to Bhutan”, both Linda and I were on Hay House Book Club Radio together, talking about the story themes and what there was to take-away from reading this wonderful memoir about loving life in Bhutan and Linda’s life of love in Bhutan with her amazing husband, Namgay.  If you read the book, you’ll see that, truly, he sounds like a paragon of patience and an altogether wonder of a man!

Afterwards, Linda and I communicated via Facebook and Twitter, and then, finally, email.  I found out she was coming to New York City for an event, and I thought perhaps we could meet for coffee?  We could.

It seemed that we met as two strangers with a common ground – her book, which she wrote and I loved.  I was soon to learn that it was no accident that Linda and I met each other.

Our afternoon conversation did what many conversations between women do – it drifted into talk of relationships and love.

I wanted to know more about her romance with her husband.  I was intrigued by their relationship – Western drama meets Buddhist acceptance and allowing – it seemed at once exciting and implausible.  What did he make of her worry and frenzy?  What did she make of his silence and peace?

Her stories in person were as ripe with promise and love as they were in the book.  As in the book, she was forthcoming and authentic over coffee about how they had to take time to get used to each other and it wasn’t always easy, but very much worth it.  The story of the romance in the book is one of my favorite parts — and I loved hearing more about it first-hand.

I contributed some of my own story.  I met my husband many years ago and it was not long before I fell madly in love.  I’ve written about Fred before, my son’s father, my partner-in-love-and-travel-and-craziness, followed by some tough years and, finally, not one separation, but two.  The second one lasted 9 years before he finally walked into my apartment shortly after 9/11 and handed me divorce papers.  “Why now?” I asked.  “Why not?” he answered – and I had to agree.  Our divorce was final in February, 2002.

Many years ago, after the initial anger and fights of the separation wore off, we became friends – probably because there never was much to fight about to begin with.  I’m convinced, even today, that if either one of us had had an ounce of transformation skills between us,  we would never have separated.  But, separate we did.  And, friends we’ve been – for all these years.

My friends and teachers and coaches always commented that they wondered why we weren’t together.  Not only have we been close friends, full of mutual admiration and respect, neither of us married again.  He was still my “person”, as they say on the television show,  “Grey’s Anatomy” – if something good happened to me, I called Fred first.  If something awful was going on – well, there you go…. Fred was the one I called for support and comfort.

He had been with the same woman since we separated.  We never spoke of his relationship with her.  We spoke of almost everything else, though.   In fact, our relationship was mostly conversation – phone calls about good movies, a course he or I was taking, what we thought about life and love, and, most of all, about our son, Josh, who was, and still is, the focus of our attention, our care, our love. 

We rarely saw each other.

At Christmas time, while I was in Minneapolis visiting Josh, everything seemed as usual between Fred and me – calls checking in with each other about what I was doing with Josh, where we were going, what restaurants Josh was liking those days, chirpy little conversations about ordinary “friend” stuff.

On the day before I was to leave Minneapolis, Fred ended one of our phone calls with, “Oh, I have to tell you something.  I’m getting married in January.”

I wish I could explain what happened next.  My throat closed up and I couldn’t speak, I had to hang up, I fell to the floor, sobbing, as if someone I loved deeply had just died.  Well, no person died, but something did die.  Whatever that illusion was, it was over, and mourning that death has taken the better part of the last five months.

We’ve had fights we haven’t had in years, with accusations back and forth.  I felt as if I was in a time warp and I’m sure he did, too.  We’re not speaking now and perhaps that is part of the process.

I felt,  and still feel,  silly – mourning a marriage that was over 17 years ago, but I didn’t mourn way back then and it needed to be done.   The grieving needed to be done, the tears needed to flow, a new life needed to be born out of the loss, perhaps a new love out of the acceptance of what is over.

Even now, months later, I’m still surprised at my reaction, stunned that it threw me into a grief so deep that I am only now pulling myself up the well-walls by my finger-tips, looking back down into that deep, dark hole of abandonment and loss as if I could so easily let go and fall back in and drown in the sadness of it once again.

But…   I don’t.

I’m sitting on the ledge of the well now, swinging my feet over to the outside – although, I haven’t tried to stand yet.   I often wonder if I can carry my own weight alone.

I shared all this with Linda Leaming at our coffee date.  She answered with a story about what Namgay said when he heard that friends of theirs were divorcing:  “Perhaps they’ve finished out their karma together.”

Even as she said it, I felt the tears well up and I sensed that it was true – and I was sad that it probably is true.  There’s a finality now that never was there before in any of our fights, our partings, our separation, or our divorce.

It reminded me of a story from Linda’s  book about when a baby died — Namgay told her, “Sometimes they come back and live for a year or two, then they die.  They’re just finishing out the samsara.”    Fred and I were soulmates — perhaps we came back together in this life to finish out our samsara.  

It is complete.  Part of me feels frightened to be alone for really the first time in my life.   Another part of me feels truly free for the first time in my life.

Thank you, Linda, for saying the exact thing I needed to hear at the exact time I needed to hear it – another gift from Bhutan, another example of people coming into our lives just when we need them to — to teach us something, to push us a little further along on our journey.

I hope that someday Fred and I can be friendly, but not yet.  I hope that someday we can both walk our son down the aisle when he marries, knowing that we did a good thing there with him.  I hope that someday we can be in the same room with our grandchildren and remember that once we were in love and it was great and we meant everything to each other and we have that to give to our son and to his children.  The relationship may be complete, the karma may be finished, but love never dies, and that is the gift we can remember and give.

Before I leave you today, I want to add one thing.  I did know for about a year that what Fred and I had was somehow preventing me from being in relationship with someone else – something I finally realized that I wanted.  Last fall, I told my coach that I was going to turn that over to God to handle – and so I did.  Every night, from mid-November until I left for Minneapolis for Christmas, I prayed to God, “Please heal this – whatever this is – between me and Fred.  I want to be in relationship with someone else, and I know that this bond is stopping me from doing that.  I’m willing for it to be undone.  And, dear God, please be gentle with us – he doesn’t have to die for me to be free.  Amen.”

And so it is.

Deliciously yours in the Samsara of it All, Linda

“Samsara literally means “wandering-on.” Many people think of it as the Buddhist name for the place where we currently live — the place we leave when we go to nibbana. But in the early Buddhist texts, it’s the answer, not to the question, “Where are we?” but to the question, “What are we doing?” Instead of a place, it’s a process: the tendency to keep creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, you create another one and go there. At the same time, you bump into other people who are creating their own worlds, too.”   Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Here is Linda Leaming and me with Diane Ray on Hay House Radio:

http://www.hayhouseradio.com/listenagain.php?latest=true&archive_link_type=link_mp3&archive_id=8204&show_id=235&episode_id=7208

Or, you can try this one for the mp3 recording:

http://hayhouse.edgeboss.net/download/hayhouse/freecontent/free_june_archive/hayhousebookclub_052711.mp3

You can listen for free for one more week.  Then it goes into the Hay House Radio archives.  Thanks!

 

I was looking forward to receiving Marianne Williamson’s new book, “A Course in Weight Loss:  21 Spiritual Lessons For Surrendering Your Weight Forever” to review for Hay House Publishing.  As a student of “A Course in Miracles”, the spiritual self-study program that Marianne herself turned me on to many years ago, I had a feeling that this was not going to be your typical weight-loss book – and I was right.

To begin, I’ve been on a diet since last May and lost 16 pounds doing that.  I was so proud of myself for making it through most of the Christmas holidays without gaining anything back – I thought I had this “monkey” off my back for good.

Alas, that was not so.  At the end of the Christmas holidays, my ex-husband and wonderful friend called to tell me he was getting married in the new year.  I never expected my grieving reaction until I realized that I never mourned my marriage the way I needed to.  January started that time – and, in the two months since, I’ve gained back 8 of the 16 pounds I lost.

I received Marianne’s book right in the midst of all the pain of my long over-due grief.

My original plan — before I found myself plunged into my unexpected despair — was to read it and review it here on this blog.    If I could take something on for myself – Well, then, I would, but I really didn’t think I needed it as much as someone else might need it.

How wrong could I have been?  I needed this book to come the very moment it did!   As spiritual as I think I am, the fact is that circumstances can and do throw me for a loop – and send me right back into thinking the old disempowering thoughts about myself that get me to start eating without thinking:  “I’m not good enough,” “I was a terrible wife,” “Who would want me? I’m so selfish”.  Before I knew it, I re-gained the 8 pounds I’d lost!

“A Course in Weight Loss” addresses these very issues of how we disempower ourselves, how we hate how we look, how we feel about ourselves when we don’t feel good about ourselves.  Bottom line?  Marianne’s book was exactly what I needed to appear in my life!

This is a book that is definitely a “course” – a step-by-step approach to – a diet?  NO!  The approach is to assist us in being willing to take on that which, as “A Course in Miracles” says, is our only problem – we think we are separate from God.  It is a step-by-step approach to have us remember Who we are: a beautiful, perfect child of God — and, as such, everything we need is right here already.  We need only remember Who we are.

Marianne’s instructions are graceful and loving:  to build an altar to ourselves and that which we know to be the Divine within us.  Then, Marianne  guides us:  to enhance our altars as a symbol of being in touch with our own spirit,   buying ONE piece of carefully and lovingly chosen piece of fruit to put on the altar,  to write  letters to the self we are leaving behind so as to transform to the Self we are becoming, and to become aware of those triggers that send us right back into our pain.  It is nothing less than a spiritual journey into our own hearts and minds to find the Real Self, the thin and whole spiritual Self that has been there all along.

Marianne doesn’t hold back, that’s for sure.  There is one chapter called, “Exit the Alone Zone” that I am positive she wrote just for ME! I spend a lot of time alone – I work alone in my home office every day – and I always feel a bit lonely about that.  This book made me realize that I – or the ego part of me – orchestrated that”alone-ness”  in order to keep me separate from others – as separate as I sometimes feel when I forget my spiritual path, when I forget that “alone” is an illusion that I have created.

Well, now it’s time to create something new!

There are beautiful prayers at the end of each chapter that  moved me to tears, each one inviting God in to heal us, to heal our un-healed wounds – as only He can do.

I finished reading the book through once, and now I have started it again, beginning with my altar in my window: a beautiful Buddha and a flower and a picture of a laughing Christ.  As “A Course in Miracles” resonated for me as my spiritual path, Marianne’s “Course in Weight Loss” is resonating for me as the path to healing all my wounds, not only weight, but money, relationship, and career.  That is a plan that I am joyfully taking on!

I want to end with one of Marianne’s beautiful prayers – the prayer that is at the end of Lesson 15, “Exit the Alone Zone.”  To me, this is the essence of so much of this wonderful book:

“Dear God, Please melt the walls that separate me from others, imprisoning me within myself.

Please heal my wounded places and free my heart to love.

Help me connect to others that I might isolate no more.

I know, dear God, that when I am alone, I fear;

and when I fear, I self-destruct.

What I suffer now and have suffered before,

dear God, may I suffer no more.

Amen”

And, to that, my own  “Hallelujah!”

Deliciously yours in the Sacred Self that we all are,  Linda

This is Marianne Williamson, a New York Times best-selling author several times over.  Her book, “A Return to Love” is a spiritual classic and widely considered by many to be the cliff notes to ‘A Course in Miracles'”.  Marianne is an internationally known speaker and teacher.  You can visit her site:  www.marianne.com to see where she is speaking in your area.

Here is the link to Hay House publishing where you can purchase Marianne’s book:

<a title="Hay House Link to Marianne's Book" href="“><a href=”http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=JZjyJRjtyzs&offerid=206928.10000509&type=2&subid=0″><IMG border=0 src=”http://affiliate.hayhouse.com/IndivProd/978-1-4019-2152-1.gif&#8221; ></a><IMG border=0 width=1 height=1 src=”http://ad.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/show?id=JZjyJRjtyzs&bids=206928.10000509&type=2&subid=0&#8243; >

Disclosure:  I received Marianne Williamson’s book, “A Course in Weight Loss:  21 Spiritual Lessons For Surrendering Your Weight Forever” for free from Hay House Publishing.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

This is how it goes, living in New York City:

I opened my Facebook page one night about 8PM and saw that my friend, Peri Lyons, chanteuse extraordinaire, was doing her cabaret show down in Greenwich Village that night.  I wanted to go.

I called another friend, Janey, and asked her if she was up for some sultry singing and could she be ready in – Oh, say? —  5 minutes?   She could.

We met outside Caffe Vivaldi at Bleecker and Jones Streets and got ourselves a table inside.  The café is a tiny place with an eclectic crowd — fitting because Peri, herself, is many styles and many tastes and many charms  (she sings songs such as her own “Mrs. DeSade Explains”, written from the point of view of the wife of the Marquis)  with an altogether mellifluous voice — dulcet tones mixed with sensuous self-embrace that led Janey to remark, “Wow!  She is the distinction, ‘temptress’.”    And, so she is…

Peri is also a psychic with mystical powers.  On her break, she came to sit with us. She touched my hand and declared that I would be in a relationship by November of this year.  I don’t ordinarily look forward to the onset of winter, but I must admit to a certain anticipation of this year’s late fall and what that will bring.  Peri is known for her accurate predictions.

Janey and I left at around midnight after a totally delightful evening.  She walked me to the subway and then headed on home to Soho.

Years ago, I never rode the subway late at night.  I was afraid.   Now, I find it the most interesting time.  One never knows what will happen on the subway.  You can choose to be fearful or you can choose to be open to the magic of the below-ground in Manhattan.

First, you have to figure out where you’re going.  NYC subways are notorious for announcing – once you are on them – that they are not going where you think they are going.  That night was no different.

Announcer:  “This ‘E’ train will be running on the  ‘F’ track to Queens.  If you want to continue on the ‘E’ train route in Manhattan, get off at the next stop and take the ‘V’ train to 53rd and Lexington and…”.    God help the subway novice!

I got off at the next stop to find the “V” train which would take me three blocks from my apartment rather than ride the “F” train to 63rd and Lexington – a good 11 blocks from my home.  I followed the underground labyrinth up stairs and down stairs to get myself onto the “V” train platform.

As I waited for the train, I heard music drift from further down the platform… Lyrical acoustic guitar strains from long ago,  Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” that I have alternately loved and hated, depending on where I’ve been in my life:

“When she gets there, she knows if the stores are all closed,  with a word she can get what she came for…”

I was mesmerized.  I started walking towards the music, past the people on the platform, young people with hats and bottles, coming home – or going to – a party, the melody luring me on…

“And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune. Then the piper will lead us to reason…”

I felt as if I was in some strange movie, floating past little snippets of life in the city; a mother with a sleeping baby in a stroller and another curled in under her neck,  moving towards the music as Odysseus to the sirens’ song…

“And a new day will dawn for those who stand long and the forests will echo with laughter…”

I pushed through a crowd standing around the singer, close enough to pay him homage (he was very good), yet far enough away because he was dirty and strange looking, with a curly, matted beard, wearing a torn, brown tweed coat on a warm day, and an open, red velvet-lined guitar case at his feet.

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on…”

Out of all the people around him – quite a few for almost 1 in the morning – he turned and looked right at me.  I couldn’t help but look back.

“Your head is humming and it won’t go in case you don’t know,  the piper’s calling you to join him…”

I moved out of the ring of people surrounding the musician – the dirty, bedraggled, red- ringlets-beard of a man who was staring at me as he was singing.  I took out a wad of dollar bills.

“Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know:  Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.”

I leaned over, still looking at him, and put the crumpled bills in the guitar case.

A train was barreling into the station, almost — but not quite — drowning out the shift to the louder electronic guitar that is the latter part of “Stairway..”.    I glanced over to see that it was the “V” train I was waiting for.

I looked back at the strange musician.

“And if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last.  When all are one and one is all, yeah, to be a rock and not to roll.”

I turned and stepped through the subway train doors.  I crossed the car and sat down facing out to the man singing.  He was still looking at me.

“And she’s buying a stairway….to heaven.”

The train started out of the station.  I was shaking.  Not from fear – I’m not afraid in New York City.

I felt touched by something.

When I arrived at my stop, I got out of the train and climbed the stairs up out of the station to the dark night above-ground.  I took a deep breath of what passes for fresh air here.

I couldn’t get the song out of my head.

Down the street from the subway stop is the police precinct for my neighborhood.  Outside the door, a young girl with long dark hair, all dressed up, was having her picture taken by a man and another girl standing next to him.  I stopped to allow them to get the shot.  I heard the camera click,  and then he smiled at me to pass.  As I walked by, he said:

“We just bailed her out of jail!”  They looked happy.  I smiled back and turned to give her a thumbs-up.  She threw her head back in laughter and waved at me.

There’s a 24-hour Korean deli on the corner of my block.  The night’s adventure made me hungry, and I stopped in to get a cup of my favorite Ben and Jerry’s pistachio ice cream.  A taste of heaven if ever there was one.

As I walked the last steps to my apartment, I thought about the evening and how everything in my life is a blessing — because I choose to see it that way.  Heaven is anywhere — and everywhere — you want it to be.

“Oooo, it makes me wonder…”

Deliciously yours in the Possibility of it All, Linda

“Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” …Helen Keller

The song in the story above is “Stairway to Heaven,” by Led Zeppelin from the 1971 album, “LED ZEPPELIN IV”, written by guitarist, Jimmy Page,  and  vocalist, Robert Plant.  It was never released as a single.  It is considered by many as the best rock song of all time, and Jimmy Page’s guitar solo, the best guitar solo of all time.  Here it is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9TGj2jrJk8.

To the left is the most extraordinary and talented singer/songwriter, Peri Lyons.    She also writes a blog on her observations, called “The Ampelopsis Diaries” at www.MissPeriLyons.blogspot.com,  which —  I warn you  — do not read unless you are in the mood to laugh so hard that bladder-control may actually become a serious issue.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

We say, “I’m going to go on a diet,” and maybe we join a gym or maybe we eat healthy –  for a few days or weeks –  and then —  we get too busy to  go to the gym, and we see a great dessert and say, “Oh, just this once…”

And that’s the end of the resolution.

We’re right back to where we were before.  Worse, really, because, now,  we feel bad about ourselves because we failed at THAT,  too.

We fail because we make it all about the “doing” and not about who we’re “being”…

For me, it’s been more effective to take a stand for something — a stand for myself, a stand for someone else — a stand for something that’s important to me.  That “stand” becomes something that the living without THAT would be — not who I am.

This is not easy.  It takes being present to who we really are all the time and THAT is a challenge.  It’s just not something we do — We tend to be a lot “foggier” about our lives.   Without that presence — Well, life will simply continue on automatic.

What it takes is courage.  Courage to face the truth in ourselves. Courage to do the work to be who we really are.

Complacency is so much easier.

The first step is to really get what’s going on now:  The “what’s so” in the matter.  Once you get that, you’ll know where you are standing now on the issue – and then you can see whether you like standing there or not.

I remember when I quit smoking for good.  I had quit many times before that last time.  I did all the things that smokers do when they try to quit:  I tapered off, for a while. Then —  a bad day at work would set me off and I would realize I’d finished a pack.   A few times, I quit cold – and all I could think of was a cigarette. Then I sneaked a cigarette at a party and was right back to smoking.

Every time I went back to smoking, I hated myself about it more than before.

I couldn’t trust my own Word to myself in the matter of smoking.

I never referred to myself as a smoker.  I tricked myself into thinking that I only smoked when I was socializing or I only smoked after dinner or I only smoked outside my apartment.

Rarely did I notice that I smoked when I was by myself and I smoked in the morning and I smoked sitting in front of the television late at night when I was too lazy to go out into the stairwell or to go outside.

On October 10th in 2000, my friend invited me to an Anthony Robbins event at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.  The Meadowlands is right across the Hudson River from Manhattan, so she also had to talk me into taking the train down to her house in South Jersey so that she didn’t have to drive to the Meadowlands alone – and so I did.

The night I arrived at her house, I sneaked outside to have a few cigarettes on the back deck.  I sneaked out there again the next morning and I smoked outside the Meadowlands, after our long drive from her house and before we entered the arena.

During the course of this event — a motivation-driven event for 3000 people that included speeches by Christopher Reeve, Barbara Walters, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Donald Trump, and Tony himself – I quit smoking for good.

I love Tony Robbins – in the pantheon of motivational speakers, he’s got the thing DOWN.  He’s got more energy than any ten people I know.  And he goes for the jugular of self-loathing in a way that leaves you no choice but to face yourself.  Really.

At one point in the event, he talked about smoking and smokers.  It was clear that he does not think that being a smoker is an empowering way to live one’s life…  What he thinks is even more disempowering is when we don’t know who we are around being a smoker…

He addressed the audience, “Raise your hand if you’re a smoker.”

I didn’t raise my hand.  After all, I wasn’t REALLY a smoker, I didn’t smoke ALL the time….

About one-third of the people raised their hands.

He then said, “Raise your hand if you’re not a smoker.”

Well, I couldn’t very well raise my hand.  I did smoke… SOMETIMES.

A different one-third of the people raised their hands.

Then, he said, “Raise your hand if you didn’t raise your hand for either of the other two choices.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  Now, here was something I could get behind:   Ambivilance.

I proudly raised my hand high.

Well, pride goeth before a fall.

Tony said, “Good for you if you don’t smoke.  Acknowledge yourselves for that – you’re taking one step towards leading a healthy life.  There’s nothing more for me to say to you about this.”

Now for the smokers, “YOU know that you’re doing something that’s not good for you.  You know that and you continue smoking.  You think of yourself as a smoker and until you don’t, you’ll continue to be a smoker.  I’m not going to try to talk you into quitting smoking.”

No lecture, no advice, no nothing.

Tony continued, “The people I really want to address are those of you who didn’t raise your hand for either ‘Yes, I’m a smoker’ or ‘No, I’m not a smoker.’  Don’t you get that you either are or you aren’t a smoker?  There are only two choices here.  Who are you kidding?  Only yourselves.  Everyone around you knows what you are.”

Suddenly, I was embarrassed.  I guess I thought I was fooling everyone.

“You are living in a fantasy world.  A world where you cannot possibly make a powerful choice for yourself because you don’t even know where you stand RIGHT NOW.”

Tony didn’t say much more than that – he’s not into convincing people to do things.  What he did say was much more powerful:

“I’m going to ask you all again.  This time, I want you to choose one or the other because there can ONLY be one or the other.  Be honest with yourself.  Be true to yourself.  Be willing to be responsible for the consequences of your behavior, whatever that is.  Non-smoker?  Healthy choice.  Smoker?  Unhealthy choice.  Know thyself.  Choose powerfully.”

Then, he asked again, “How many of you are smokers?”

It was a moment of truth for me.  Am I a smoker?  Is that who I am?  Am I someone who daily makes an unhealthy choice for my life?  Someone who does something to put myself at risk for my LIFE every day?

NO, that’s NOT who I am.

I didn’t raise my hand.

Then, Tony asked, “How many of you are non-smokers?”

I hesitated only a moment.  I raised my hand. I was a non-smoker.

That was it.  I never smoked another cigarette.  I never reached for one, I never craved one, I never thought about smoking again since that day.

Looking back on it now, in the light of what I’ve learned since then, I realize that what I did – what Tony helped me to do – is the simple formula for transformation of anything:

Get profoundly related to the “what’s so” in the matter.  And, given that, what is your stand – for yourself, for your life, for the world?

That’s what I believe in.  That’s what I do every day of my life – about whatever comes up.  A stand is a very powerful thing – because we are very powerful Beings.

I’m working on my stand for 2010.  So far, it sounds something like this:

My possibility for myself and my life is to live in the fullness of life everyday, to be in partnership with everyone who comes into my life, to be someone who gives everything I have to give, always.

Happy New Year!

Deliciously yours in the Creation of it All,   Linda

“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”  Rainer Maria Rilka

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

autumn-leaves-nancy-muellerRevisedI’ve always loved writing…. more accurately, I’ve always loved words….  I read so much as a child that my mother was always calling through my bedroom door, late at night – as I hung over the side of my bed with a flashlight so I could read “just a few more pages” of my latest novel – “Linda, stop that reading!  It’s time to go to sleep….!”  Reluctantly, I would lay down my book and close my eyes —  to continue the stories in my dreams of far away places and exciting men and women doing adventurous things…  

I made up my mind that I, too, would be one of those adventurous souls; that I, too, would write exciting and revealing stories of insight and revelation and love —  and love lost…. 

When I went to college, it was just so natural for me to choose English Literature as my major….  the chance to go to school and have to read ten to fifteen books a week?  Wow!  This was not work, this was love, this was exciting…!  This was permission to do what I had always wanted to do….  Sweet!

The writing naturally flowed out of that…  An assigned paper was not just something to get done – it was something that could be a work of art…  I was never happy until it flowed the right way, the words were musical to the ear, the grammar was impeccable…. 

I’ve been writing all my life – but this is the first time I’ve ever let anyone read what I’ve written…  I never knew why.  I’ve often come up with great ideas to write about… and write them, I have….. I have journals and pages and notebooks everywhere — reminding me of stories yet to be written, novels yet to be formulated, pithy little “how to” books yet to be organized…. 

They sit there still, never developed, never having that last dollop of imagination and sheer will needed to get them into manuscript form…. 

A few years ago,  I was a coach in a course that was all about creating the life of your dreams….  “What comes out of your mouth creates your life….” and “Speak your dreams…..” are the mantras of the education.   What we learned is that, if you are stopped in any area of your life, there was an earlier, similar time that created a block – and this course was about “un-blocking” the blocks — and seeing ourselves as limitless and creative  — and that anything is possible…. 

One night, I worked with my participants on their dreams.  We went around the room and each person spoke of the secret dreams they had — what they would have and what they would do…  one day…   someday…  but not now….  

My job was to get each person present to what was standing in the way — what was that earlier, similar time that lived for them in the background as why they couldn’t have that NOW…?   I was  really in there with them to release that block and create a new possibility….  A new possibility that included that dream — that way of being that would make that dream come true…   a new possibility for a new life….. 

It was a long night…. at the end of the evening, I thought we were done when one of my participants, Peter, said to me, “Linda, what is YOUR dream…?” I hesitated…  then I said it  for the first time: 

“I want to be a writer…” 

Peter didn’t leave it at that…. He said, “So, why aren’t you?” 

I couldn’t answer him. 

He went on, “Linda, you know this education well enough to know that if you are not doing that – if you are stopped — there is an earlier, similar time that created the block to that….  Good God!  That’s what we’ve been working on all night long!” 

As I was shaking my head, “No” – I suddenly had a flash back to college and something that happened in one of my classes – and I knew that was it…. 

One of my courses was entitled, “The Novel to 1900”, and – as much as I love reading, this is one of those courses that really put that commitment to the test.  I had to read between 3 and 5 novels a week for that course alone.  

As part of the coursework, I had to write a paper on one or more of the novels – a topic of my own choosing.  I chose to compare and contrast two novels that were very different in style, yet, I felt similar in quest – the quest for happiness or enligtnement – and worth pointing out.  They were Voltaire’s “Candide” and Samuel Johnson’s “Rasselas”.  While “Candide” is a satire and, hence, uses a naïve storyline to tell what Voltaire felt was a profound fact of human existance – that we live always in the best of all possible worlds; “Rasselas” is a direct  story of a journey to seek enlightenment and raises the question “Can we, as humans, ever achieve happiness?” 

That was my version of it, anyway – and, I handed in my paper, satisfied that I had made my point and that it was a good paper. 

In class a few weeks later, the teacher handed out the graded papers to everyone in the room – except me.  I was puzzled as I looked around to see that I was the only one who had not received her paper back. 

I went to Douglass College, which is the womens’ college of Rutgers University, and this school had – and probably has to this day – an “Honor Board”.  If it was felt that a student had done something untoward, they could be asked by a peer or a teacher or anyone in the school, to report themselves to the Honor Board. 

When class was dismissed, I went to the Professor to get my paper, and – as all the other students were filing out of the classroom —  the teacher told me that she was requesting that I report myself to the Honor Board – that she believed the paper was “too sophisticated and too rich” to have been written by a 19-year old. 

She believed that I plagerized the paper. 

I tried to maintain my composure, but could feel my cheeks burning as I fought back tears.  I could sense, more than I could actually see, the other girls walking by me and staring – as I told the teacher that this was my idea, that I had not researched it anywhere – and, I stood my ground and stated that I was not reporting myself to the Honor Board because I didn’t do anything wrong. 

The Professor told me that if I would not, she would do it for me. 

Stunned, I walked out of the classroom and went directly to the ladies room, where I tried to wash the shame from my face and the red from my eyes —  and tried to regain my composure for my next class.  Other girls from my class were in there and none of them spoke to me.  I felt ostracized and I felt numb – and I didn’t understand what just happened… 

I waited for two weeks while the Honor Board researched my professor’s claim.  At the end of that time, I received a letter from the board that they had investigated and did not find anything to support that I had plagerized the paper, either in concept or in content.  I was instructed to go back to my professor to receive a grade. 

I went back to my professor and showed her the letter from the Honor Board.  She took it from me and read it for what seemed like an eternity.  Finally, she looked up and said to me, “I don’t care what they say.  I don’t believe you wrote that paper.  I will not give you an ‘A’.”   With that, she leaned over her desk and wrote a “B” on the paper and handed it back to me. 

I never thought of that incident again until the night with my participants during the Wisdom Course.  But, when I got it…. I got it…..  

I realized that I had made a decision I didn’t know I made – after that time so many years ago —  that I would never again put my writing out there for anyone to see or read or judge.  And, every day since then it has been my secret love, my dream unspoken….  and something has been missing in my life…. 

With my Wisdom group, I created a possibility for myself that I would write and I would get it out there some way, and I would do it for myself and if people liked it, great… and if they didn’t, that was OK too….

Our dreams are for us….  and the living into them is for the world…..  When we live our dreams, we give permission for everyone else to have their dreams, too…  When we speak our dreams, it opens up a conversation in which all can participate – and then each person’s  dreams look real and attainable…. 

Writing this blog has been a joy and a blessing  for me…. and whenever any of you write to me and tell me that it has made a difference for you, that is a gift… and I thank you…. 

I also thank you, Candide, and I thank you, Rasselas, for making your journeys…. for in your journeys to find happiness, I have found mine….. 

I know this now…. I am a writer….  

…..and a dreamer….  

and so are you….  

Deliciously yours in the Magic of it All, Linda 

“If you hear a voice within you saying ‘I am not a painter,’ then by all means, paint… and that voice will be silenced” … Vincent Van Gogh

“Everyone has a purpose in life… a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals”    – Deepak Chopra

This post was originally titled, “And this gives life to thee….”  from William Shakespeare’s sonnet, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”  I changed it because I think this title is more appropriate to the content.  Thanks for understanding that this is a work in progress.

The Wisdom Course is a division of Landmark Education.    Follow your dreams…..  www.landmarkeducation.com 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

peaceful-viewinCentralParkAfter 9/11, it got personal….

In the aftermath of those days of serving at the armory, and those nights of writing about it to all my friends, I was left alone with my own fears… 

Before September 11th, I had been interviewing for a job.  It had looked good for a few weeks.  On the Friday after the towers went down, I received a call that they were putting the job on hold.  

During the busy days, I would forget that I had no job, no means of support, and the only thing I had been working on was now gone.  In the middle of the night, after the shower, after the writing — sometime around 4:00 every morning, alone in my room, I would remember…  

That’s when I got scared for myself… 

I was forced to look at my situation and, when I did, I became paralyzed with fear.  There were times when I sat in my seat, unable to think of what I would do or where I would go.  My options looked grim.  I was virtually estranged from my family.  Years of going down separate roads, with no time or effort invested, either on my part or theirs, to enclose us back in the loop of “family”  had created a distance and an indifference that caught me off guard.  I never realized before that not being committed in love and community with them would finally leave me without family to turn to. 

Sometime after the towers went down, Fred called me that he wanted to speak to me.  He came over that afternoon and handed me divorce papers.  I was too tired and too stunned about my life to be further shocked that he chose this time — after 8 years of separation —  to bring up a divorce.  I looked at them – three simple pages that dissolved a marriage that had long been over.  I looked up, “Why now?” I asked.  “Why not?” he answered —  and I had to agree.  I signed the papers. 

That night, the impact of his visit hit me.  I was alone.  

The despair and loneliness hit.  I had been praying at the armory with the victims’ families, but my own prayers seemed empty and meaningless.  That night, they moved into desperation.  There was no direction, no comfort, no hope. 

I didn’t know how to reach out.  I never did that before.  I always had it that I was supposed to do it by myself.  I didn’t know any other way.  And, in not reaching out, I had withdrawn into myself, closing myself off to everyone who had ever been in my life. 

I walked to my computer and sat down.  I composed an email to Marianne Williamson.  Marianne was the pastor of Church of Today in Detroit, Michigan.  I had read her book, “A Return to Love” many years before and had loved it.  It was a book based on her reflections on “A Course in Miracles”, a spiritual self-study program.  Since then, I had searched out her lectures and workshops.  She had just been in New York City after 9/11, speaking at St. Bartholemew’s Church on Park Avenue about the tragedy.  She had said something that was so hopeful:  “God didn’t make this happen, but, now that it has, God has a plan.” 

I wondered if He had a plan for me, too. 

I wrote to her about the victims’ families and what I was doing with them and that I felt called to do that work – to help people deal with the tragedy, to make a difference in people’s lives, and that the calling had to do with God, but I didn’t know what that was.  I knew I wanted to continue helping people, but what did that look like?  I questioned how one went about figuring that out AND making a living at that same time.  I told her that I was at a point of fear and “not knowing” and that didn’t feel good, but what WAS the way?  I didn’t know and I hoped that she did.  I clicked “Send”.  

The next day, I received an answer.  The email said: 

After reading your email, my sense is that you need to be more patient as you are being ‘pruned’ for this work.  I don’t believe we can hurry the process, we can only be willing to be used, to be changed, to evolve.  A year from now you will look back and see how much you have grown in faith and trust.  You will see how your fear has been kept in check, not removed, but kept in check by your faith and a power greater than yourself.  Do what is in front of you to do right now and the next thing will be shown to you in due time.  I know it is not easy, and yet I do believe this is the way the preparation for service works.

God’s blessings are with you” 

At the bottom of the email, there was a note:  “It might be helpful to put yourself in a spiritual support group.  Here is a list of “A Course In Miracles” study groups in Manhattan.  It is not for everyone.  See if it is for you.”       

I called every group on the list.  Some people were inviting, some were distant and aloof, some were in people’s homes, some met in coffee shops once a week.       

The last name on the list was Jeffrey Mironov.  He lived on the Upper West Side, and he held a group in his home every Wednesday night.  He had been doing it for 10 years.  He was open and welcoming and comforting on the phone.  I don’t remember what  he said to me, but I do remember that I knew that this was the group for me. 

I told him I would come the following Wednesday. 

Years before, after reading Marianne’s book, I had bought a copy of “A Course in Miracles”.  I tried to read it by myself and found it very dense and confusing.  I was baffled – she got what she got from this book?  How?  I could barely keep my attention on it for more than a paragraph without my mind wandering away…  

I thought, “Maybe if I find the chapter on ‘forgiveness’, that would be enough…”.   I laugh at myself now when I think of that since the entire work is based on forgiveness.  At the time, though, I was looking for the quick and easy way.  Perhaps I just wasn’t ready.  I found the one chapter heading with “forgiveness” in the title and tried to read that.  No luck.  I folded back the book to the page, stuck it in the closet and there it remained. 

As I prepared to go to Jeffrey’s house on December 5th, 2001, I searched all over for my copy of the Course.  I found it tucked away in the back of one of my closets, still with the page turned back to the chapter on “forgiveness”.  I didn’t know how studying this book that I didn’t understand would give me any peace.   But, I was willing to look at it differently….

Jeffrey lived – and still does — at 86th Street and Riverside Drive, a beautiful pre-war building called The Normandy.  The doorman directed me to take the elevator up to the 15th floor  — I opened the door – already slightly ajar — into Jeffrey’s apartment .  Nice.  Cozy.  I stepped into the foyer and noticed lots of shoes by the door.  I took mine off and lay them near the others.  I walked into the room where I saw people sitting.  

What was immediately there for me was the breath-taking view of the Hudson River and New Jersey from the living room window.  I was instantly  relieved that I wasn’t in some basement somewhere with no windows and a stark, single bulb hanging from the ceiling, which is how I always imagined “self-help” group meetings. 

I met Jeffrey, the leader, a tall, easy guy who reminded me of what I always thought  Ichabod Crane from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” looked like.  Only  there was nothing scared and meek about Jeffrey.  He seemed peaceful and friendly and invited me in as if his home was my home.  There was a power and grace to him.     

There were other people there, but the one who most stands out for me was Steve Conenna.  Steve is a big guy, tall with a shaved head and a wide, ever-present smile.  I was nervous about meeting everyone, but Jeffrey and Steve made me feel comfortable and, somehow, as if I belonged there…  as if I’d always belonged there… 

We read from “A Course in Miracles” and Jeffrey spoke.  I don’t remember everything he said, but he was so sure, so certain that God is “right here, right now.”  He used that expression a lot.  I wanted to ask, “How do you know that?”, but even as my questioning mind was going crazy, something inside me was settling down.  Every once in a while, the skeptical part would rise up and say something, and Jeffrey would simply answer, confident and certain, and I would sink back down into comfort.  Even so, the tears threatened to pour out at any moment.       

After a while, everyone started to leave.  Soon, I was alone in the living room with Jeffrey and Steve.  I told them about me – that I was broke, I didn’t know what to do, I felt alone and helpless AND I had just done this service at the armory that made me realize that I wanted to do something for other people.  I didn’t know what it was…  and I was afraid of what was next…

Even as I spoke, I was thinking,  “Am I kidding myself?  How can I do anything for anyone else if I can’t even take care of myself?  Am I just making excuses for a life now in crisis?  How will I know what I am supposed to do?” 

My mind was going crazy… 

Anger growled into my voice as I spoke about why I was there, “I know what I DON’T want – I don’t want to sit around and talk about God!  I don’t think that helps anything or anyone.  I want an experience of God in my life.  I want whatever this is that is angry and scared to go away and I want some peace.  I want to just BE.  I don’t want to keep trying to survive.  I’m tired and I’m scared.  If we’re just going to talk about God, this is not for me and I’m not coming back.” 

That night, and in all the years since I’ve  known  Jeffrey – I have never seen him flinch at anything I’ve said.  I’ve never seen him angry or defensive or lose it or be anything other than loving and great.  He responded to my rant by looking right in my eyes.  He said:

Linda, God loves you now, He has always loved you, and He will  always  love you. That’s all there ever is,  always.” 

That was it.  I stared at him as he and Steve looked at me.  And.. I felt… love.  It washed over me.  Right then.  Not before.   Just… right…. then.   Suddenly, Jeffrey looked beautiful to me.  Steve looked beautiful to me.  The tears rolled  down my cheeks.  I couldn’t believe it could be that simple – all of a sudden, I felt a joy and a comfort and a love for everything and everybody… 

And… the fear was gone…       

Steve said, “You look pretty good to me.”  I nodded my head.  I looked into his eyes and then I looked into Jeffrey’s eyes and I knew…. 

This is what I came for…. 

I’ve been here ever since….  in the love, in the peace, in the knowing… 

Deliciously yours in the Majesty of it All…  Linda

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”  Psalm 138:8

“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”    Mohandas Mahatma Ghandi

MarianneWilliamsonHeadshot

This is Marianne Williamson, whose book, “A Return to Love” is the book I read that got me to “A Course in Miracles.”  She’s written many books since then and I’ve read them all.  If you want to know more about her or to order this book or any of her other books, all of which I recommend,  please go to her website, www.marianne.com.  I particularly like “Illuminata” which is a book of prayers that I keep by my bed.

 

 

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

candle1A  personal remembrance of 9/11…

I woke up that morning and did what I always do – rolled out of bed, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, meditated, and turned on my computer.  The first thing I saw on my screen was a tiny picture of both towers with smoke coming out the side of one — and a headline that said, “Plane hits World Trade Tower.”  My first thought was, “Wow!  The pilot couldn’t see that?”  It was early enough that there was no mention of terrorists in the paragraph that followed. 

I ate breakfast – and I headed for the living room and my television.  I clicked it on – just in time to see the first tower go down. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes…  I couldn’t move, I couldn’t pull myself away from the TV screen… 

It was lucky I turned on my computer so early…  It was my link to the world outside.  That computer line stayed open all day because it had already been established.  After the towers went down, neither of my phones worked.  I worried all day about my family, about my friends…    After the day was over, I would find no less than 8 messages from my son, each one more troubled than the one before, and lots of voice mails from all over the country.    

The voice on the television called for blood donations in anticipation of all the casualties.  I lived on the next street from the blood bank and soon the line curved around the corner, under my window, to curve around the next corner again. I have a mildly rare blood type and so I thought to do what seemed to be the only thing I could do  – I went to the front of the line and spoke to the guard there, told him my blood type, and made an appointment to come back the next day.  They were so over-loaded with donations right then, but rare blood was being taken on an appointment basis.  

When I went back the next day, they told me that there was no need to donate – they had more blood than they could use.  

The television screen showed well made-up gurneys outside hospitals, in preparation for all the bleeding and hurt who would surely fill them soon.  That image would soon haunt us in the days afterwards as they stood there,  pristine and empty.  

By Thursday, I could no longer sit in front of my television, watching replay after replay of the towers collapsing.  I called the Red Cross to volunteer.  They took my name and told me they would call me back.  I waited all day.  They didn’t call. 

On Friday morning, I heard the announcer on television say that the National Guard had taken over the armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th Street, and the victims’ families were urged to go there rather than to go anywhere near Ground Zero.  I decided to go to the armory to offer whatever help I could.  After all, I thought, I was a spiritual minister – I could pray with them, I could comfort them, I could do something 

The taxi couldn’t take me right to the armory – the street in front of the building was blocked off, and there were people everywhere.  I walked the last block to the front door.  There were guards lined up across the entrance, blocking the way in through the massive doors in front.   I walked up to one of guards, told him that I was volunteering with the Red Cross, and he let me right in.  No one asked for identification, so one looked in my bag.  I didn’t know it then, but those days would soon be over… 

I walked into the huge, cavernous room that is the main hall of the armory.  There were people everywhere.  High on the right wall, there was a huge television screen, playing the same news channel that I had been watching at home.  I wondered if everyone who had missing family members really wanted to watch the frequently replayed scenes of the towers smoking and then collapsing. 

Over the next few days, I would come to appreciate that huge screen on the wall as the only information available, and – as it was grounding for people at home to watch the television updates – so was it grounding for the families who had come to find out something – anything — about their missing family members — only to find that information was in the form of where their loved ones weren’t

The Red Cross table was in the far right corner of the room.  I announced myself and my intention to help.  The man behind the table asked me what I could do.  I explained that I was a spiritual minister and a form was shoved into my hands.  I filled it out, noting that there was a list of societies, orders, and credentials for me to check off.  I belonged to none of them.  When I handed my form back in, the man looked at it and told me that I could not be a minister under the Red Cross rules.  Not satisfied with that answer, I wanted to speak to someone else. 

What happened next would always after strike me as the intercession of God in an otherwise “not-going-to-happen” situation. 

It seems that the manning of the table was in the midst of a shift change.  The man who didn’t want me was leaving  and someone was taking his place.  As he got up from his seat to go, he handed my form to the woman coming in and said, “She wants to be a chaplain.”  

The woman took the form, didn’t look at it, and put it down in a pile to her right.  She called over to another woman, got her attention, pointed at me and said, “Chaplain!”  A yellow placard vest with “Chaplain”  printed on the front and back was handed to me, and I was instructed to put it on.  Then, she told me to go and stand near the front door and be on the lookout for anyone who was upset or seemed to be in distress. 

That was it.  I was a chaplain.  

As I walked to the front of the huge room, what I noticed immediately was that hardly anyone was crying.  While there were families sitting together, leaning on each other, many people were watching the screen on the wall or walking around in a daze.  The shock of what was happening was so palpable, but it had not yet given way to grief. 

A man came running up to me and a few of the other volunteers and told us that they were short-handed in the “hospital room” downstairs, and we were to go there right away.   Hospital room?  I was puzzled, but ran to follow him… 

I moved down the stairs to the right of a long line of people that started at the top of the stairs, snaked down the steps, across the hall, and into a room.  We walked up to the man in charge at the front door.  He explained that he wanted a chaplain at each of the stations where the members of the families would go to seek information.  

I looked into the room to see a series of tables arranged around the room in a big rectangle, with the chaplains and other volunteers sitting in the inside seats.  As an outside seat was available, a person from the front of the line would go to sit in the vacated seat.  I soon found out why this was called “the hospital room”. 

In front of each of the volunteers was a fat white binder about two inches thick.  The man in charge explained to me, “That is a list of everyone who has been admitted to the hospital.  They will give you the name of the person they are looking for. You look up the name.  If it is there, it means that they were admitted to the hospital.  If the name is not there…..”.  His voice trailed off.  

I asked if people were still being admitted to the hospital.  He turned and looked at me. He sighed and said, “Today is Friday.  It happened on Tuesday.  Anyone who was injured was admitted to the hospital right away.  Most of them have already been released – most of those people were injured running away from the collapse.”  He looked towards the line,  “Many of these family members have been in here already.”  As I turned to walk into the room, he said,  “We can’t say anything more than that.  The name is in the book  — or it’s not…” 

I stayed in that room all day and all night.  I suppose I must have eaten or gone to the bathroom…  I don’t remember….  There was only to stay present with each person who came to me, each at their own stage of grief – some dazed, some angry, some crying…   Some were sure my book would be updated soon and their loved one would be found, their worry would be over, their lives could continue…. 

All I could offer was a word of comfort, a touch, a prayer… listening to them as they tried to sort this out for themselves….. 

Some were ready to move onto the next stage of grief.  One woman was.  She was older, Spanish, fragile looking.  I asked her name.  “Maria,” she said (not her real name).  Her voice was so low, I could hardly hear her.  “Who are you looking for, Maria?”  She gave me the name of a man.  I looked in the big, white book.  The name was not there.  I looked up at her, “He has not been admitted to the hospital.”   

She put her head on the table and sobbed quietly.  I leaned across the table and put my hand on her arm.  “Who is this you’re looking for?”  “He is my husband,” she said. “He is my husband for 32 years.”  I got up and came around the table and held her in my arms.  She cried softly for a few minutes and then lifted her head and dried her eyes.  “That’s it, then,” she said.  

I thought to say, “You don’t know that.  Come back later.” But, I couldn’t say it.  I knew that, at some point – a different point for every person – each would have to come to that inevitable conclusion and, if Maria was ready to do that now, I could not take that away from her. 

I said nothing. 

At some point, someone noticed that I was there a long time and told me to go home.  It was 2 in the morning. 

I was exhausted, but couldn’t go to sleep right away.  I needed to decompress.  Over the next few days, a ritual evolved.  I would go home,  shower, change into a clean t-shirt and PJ bottoms, and sit at my computer… 

In the middle of those nights, I purged myself onto long emails to my friends, reporting on what was going on here, what I saw at the armory, what people were saying, what they were doing, how we were holding up.  

I sounded stronger than I felt. 

When I wrote about what I was doing, what all the volunteers were doing, I found that it really mattered to me that people were comforted, that they had enough arms around them, enough shoulders to cry on, enough people to talk to — and that those people, like me, would simply listen as the speakers worked out whatever they had to work out for themselves.  It wasn’t easy to simply listen…  AND  that is what there is to do when people are hurting….   

What I did see for myself was that being a care-giver filled me up and used me in a way that I never felt before –  it gave me a peace that money couldn’t, that my “success” never did.  It seemed strange to me to think this:  in the midst of the tragedy, I found purpose, a sense that I was contributing to people, that I was making a difference in their experience of this awful time, that I could be a source of love and comfort, and perhaps that love and comfort would register somewhere in their hearts so as to contribute to their healing… 

In one of my email “newsletters,” I offered a Sufi teaching: 

Past the Seeker as he prayed came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them…he cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”  And God said, “I did do something.  I made you.” 

Months later, I would receive an email back from one of my high school friends, to whom I had sent that Sufi passage.  She had forwarded it to her friends — and her friends had forwarded it to theirs around the world.  Someone in Nepal read it and sent a message back to me — through all the different address lists – to tell me that message had touched her most of all… 

…that people were helping people, that many were comforting others, that there was hope for humanity if that could happen…. 

Amen to that… 

Deliciously yours in the Goodness of it All….  Linda 

“Lord, take me where you want me to go
“Let me meet who you want me to meet
“Tell me what you want me to say
“And keep me out of your way.”        

….The prayer of Father Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York City, who died while administering last rites on September 11, 2001.  Father Judge was victim #001, the first official victim of 9/11.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

Hi, it’s Linda here again… back from a visit with my son, Josh, and Oh, what a delicious visit it was….!

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Josh!   He is the Great Blessing of my life…   AND, it hasn’t always been easy between us….

Let me first tell you that the dream of my life was always to have a child…   I can pinpoint the moment I knew…

One night when I was 12, I was babysitting at our neighbors’  across the street. They had a tiny baby.  I had never babysat a “real” baby before.  I thought he would sleep the whole time, but he didn’t. He cried and cried and cried – that little “new-baby-cry” that sounded like he couldn’t catch his breath.

I was afraid to touch him.

I called my mother and begged her to come over.  She did.  She went into the baby’s room, picked him up and put him on the changing table. I stood next to her as she opened his diaper. She never said a word, but she stopped for a minute and so I looked. What I saw was disgusting to my 12 year old sensibilities – the baby was raw from his waist to his knees, the diaper reeked of urine, and brown poop lay slathered over the red skin like warrior markings.

My mother started to do what I knew she knew best – taking care of children who couldn’t take care of themselves. She was ever so gentle as she cleaned that baby up. As she took care of him, he started to calm down. She put Vaseline all over him – thick layers of the stuff to block out the hurt and the pain. He stopped crying. She diapered him and picked him up. She rocked him on her shoulder, patting his back and crooning to him, until he fell asleep. She put him back in his crib.

I was in awe of her.

I decided, right then, that I was going to have a baby and I was going to be a mother just like my mother – and no child of mine was ever going to feel hurt or pain…

Ever…

And, well….  It doesn’t always go like that, does it?

For years, when Josh was little, it seemed that life was easy and happy – I joke that the three of us were like “The Three Musketeers”, always together, full of adventure and fun…

Life didn’t go on like that forever… Fred and I started to lose who we were in our marriage… we did what we did and we knew Josh had a hard time with that…

Separation and divorce are never easy for a child, no matter how old they are…

For Josh, well… he had to go through it twice…

Fred and I first separated when he was six years old. We stayed apart for two years and then we wanted to try again to make our marriage work…

The next six years were progressively painful for all of us. By the time Fred and I separated the second time, Josh was fourteen…

He chose to live with his Dad…

Since then, Josh and I have been riding a roller-coaster of emotion, trying to repair what neither of us dared to even speak of…

A pattern emerged out of the way we were together… if I said “black,” he said “white”… and then I would spend a lot of time defending “black” as if being a good mother were at stake…

Oh, we loved each other, for sure… that was never in doubt… we just weren’t always present to the love…  As a result, we didn’t have an easy, comfortable way with each other… we were both anxious, tentative, and finally…  automatic…

“Hi, Josh, it’s Mom… How’s work?”

“It’s fine. How are you?”

There would be a bit of news on either side… then…

Silence.

“Ok, Honey… I’ll let you go… I love you…!”

“Love you, too, Mom…”

Click.

When we agreed that I’d come to Minneapolis for a visit, I was determined that this time it would be different. I was committed to shift something in this relationship. I wasn’t willing to let it go on like this for one more minute…

I was willing to do anything to create the space for that to happen…

I cleared myself with a few of my committed listeners.   My friends were ruthlessly compassionate with me:   “Linda, you are either going to spend your life defending and explaining or you are going to listen to him and love him no matter what he says.   You can’t have both…”

A little scared… off I went to Minneapolis…

I started on Saturday by saying, “Josh, I know that there is something between us…”

He interrupted me, “Mom, not here at breakfast… Let’s go home and talk about this….”

When we got to his apartment, I tried again, “Josh, you can say anything you want to say to me…   I am here to listen…”

And, listen I did… for hours….

What he said is not for here… and it’s not what is at the heart of the matter, anyway… What IS the essence – the life — is that the way he saw it is the way it happened for him — and I needed to get that…

It was not easy. He spoke of things from when he was 9, when he was 13 – and times before, after, and in-between…

There were moments I wanted to jump in and say, “No, that’s not what happened…” and I remembered my friends’ caution… “Whatever way it is for him is the way it is for him… Just BE with it… That is the only way to honor him…”

Every time I wanted to correct his perception, I watched myself WANT to do that — and what went through my mind was, “this is not about being right about anything… this is about loving him…”

The more I listened, the more he said…

By four in the afternoon, we were both quiet….

What I did finally say was, “Josh, I am committed to having an extraordinary relationship with you….”

And, he said:

“Mom, I am committed to having an extraordinary relationship with you, too….”

We stopped the “heavy stuff” and proceeded to have a great weekend… He cooked for me, we watched a movie on TV and I scratched his head like I always did when he was a little boy….

The next day, he was still impatient with me and I was still trying too hard to be a “good mother”…

Old patterns die hard….

But, something had shifted… something transformed…. the impatience was more playful, the “good mother” was not so righteous… or needy…

He drove me to the airport early Monday morning. As I kissed him “Good-bye” and turned to go… I knew that we had done something huge that weekend…  I was at peace.

If anyone had told me when I was 12 that I could ever hurt my child or cause him pain, I would have said that it was not possible….

What I learned is that there are other ways to hurt a child besides leaving him in a urine-soaked diaper…

We do what we do in any moment because that is our level of consciousness at that time…

It is a gift to be able to grow in awareness… to take responsibility for what we have done and to acknowledge the impact it has on the people around us… and commit to something new, something greater, something full of love and compassion for who they are….

And… for who WE are…

Anything is possible now for me and Josh ….

I have no idea what that looks like…

Now, THAT’S an adventure worth having…

Deliciously yours in the Glory of it All,  Linda

“Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset…
Sunrise, sunset…
Swiftly flow the years.
One season following another,
Laiden with happiness and tears.”
…from “Fiddler on the Roof”

This is my son, Josh Feuer…  An amazing man, if I do say so — and not just because I’m his mother…..  xoxo

How did I learn to listen like this?  See www.landmarkeducation.com.

chocolatedippedstrawberry

We are all born into a conversation – more than one, actually – not of our own making… and those conversations form how life seems to us…   We are usually not aware of what those conversatons are — they lay beneath the surface….

We live out of those conversations….   they drive and shape our actions… 

I used to be a worrier. For years I worried about my mother – whether she was OK or not, where she was, what she was doing…. I worried in such a way that it made me feel that my worry would be enough to preclude any harm to her.   It seemed that —  only if I worried — I could be properly vigilant about her well-being.

Then my son was born. Josh was an RH baby and the doctors delivered him early in order to save his life.   He was 8 weeks premature and had to stay in the hospital for those same 8 weeks.   During that time, my mother developed angina and went to a different hospital in New Jersey, near where I grew up.  

I couldn’t be in two places at once…  

Six weeks later, on the day she was to leave the hospital, she died of a heart attack two hours before she was scheduled to be released.   My son was still in the neonatal intensive care unit at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.  My brother-in-law called me there to tell me about my mother — I leaned over my son’s incubator, put my head in my arms, and cried my heart out…

My already boundless grief was sliced with a deeper cut…   Could I have taken my eye off the ball when my son was born?    Did my mother die because I wasn’t paying attention?

What I didn’t realize at the time was…   I took all my worry about my mother and transferred it over to my son…

Some of that “hovering” paid off – I caught a 5 inch air bubble in his IV when he was 8 weeks old – seconds before it was set to go into his tiny body. The nurse said it was nothing as her shaking hands disconnected the tube and tapped out the offending air;  my doctor friend was appalled and told me it was lucky I had been there.

That just served as evidence that worry pays off…

Certainly, vigilance around a young child is appropriate – babies have a tendency to eat anything on the floor that looks interesting — and they poke their fingers into whatever little fingers can poke into – like electrical sockets, holes in the ground, bottles that are left open…   Mothers and fathers are supposed to be on the look-out for these potentially dangerous curiosities…

There does come a time, however, when you cannot watch your child every moment anymore…. and you do have to trust that they can, actually, handle SOME things on their own….

I never got THAT memo….

The litany of worry: Where are you? What are you doing? Do you have enough money? Who are you going with? Where are his parents? Why are you going there? When will you be back? Did you eat enough? Are you warm enough? Are your clothes clean?

It was exhausting….

When he went away to college, instead of the worry easing up, it got worse…. He wasn’t around, so then, I  had to worry ALL THE TIME!

Whew…!

Just about the time that I felt that I just couldn’t do it anymore, I signed up to take one of my first workshops on self-awareness, personal growth, and, in general, “how to be happy.” The leader was a friend of my group leader for “A Course in Miracles” – his name was Landon Carter and he used to be one of the early EST trainers.

I never heard of transformation education and I didn’t know what I was in for. I did, however, know that I was exhausted all the time, I was resigned about what I thought I couldn’t change about my life, I had been on anti-depressants for years, and I felt like my life was very limited and small.

Perfect.   Time for a change…

In the course of the training, Landon asked us if there was an issue that any one of us had been dealing with for a long time that we wanted to “disappear.” Before I could think about it, my arm shot up in the air, “YES, ME!! I’ve got one!”

I told Landon and the group about my constant worry. I told them that I felt like I had to worry because there seemed to be a connection between my worry and keeping my son safe.   More than safe…   I behaved as if my worry is what kept my son alive….

Landon did a technology on me called “The Truth Process”.

To explain it simply, he had me close my eyes – and he took me on a journey back through time, through every emotion and bodily sensation having to do with worry… I discovered that every time I thought about Josh or my mother or – early on, myself – in danger, I would grab my throat. I felt as if my throat was closing up so that I couldn’t breathe. Each time I thought that I had completed some event, Landon would ask me to go back even further…. each time, my throat would tighten and I would be locked in fear…

I remembered so many things… how my mother worried all the time about her family that was so far away and none of whom she had seen in years, my father who worried about his mother, my own worry about being left alone in school and not knowing anyone…

It was always about people being far away and life being dangerous and how to make sure that everyone was safe…. and, of course, you can never completely be sure that everyone is safe all the time…. so there’s more worry….

It was all about survival….

That’s what I was born into – a background conversation in every area of life that to worry was to keep safe…. maybe…

Finally, Landon said to me, “Is it your worry that is keeping your son alive?” I had to admit that speaking it out loud that way revealed it as the silly premise that it was. “No,” I answered. Then he said, “Can you accept, right this minute, that your son is either alive or he is not?” I never thought about that before – I had never before been challenged to look at what was so in that moment.

Landon went on, “Your worry is stealing your life with him right now. You cannot enjoy him in the present.   If you could get profoundly related to what is true right this moment and enjoy or mourn that – in the moment – you would have a completely different life.  Can you do that?  Can you face that?”

I could — and I did.  I gave up worrying about him.  I gave up worrying in general.  I see now that it is a totally useless emotion.  It doesn’t prevent anything and it doesn’t create anything.

In that free space, I took a stand that I would enjoy every moment with my son from that day forward….

A few months later, Landon wrote to me to ask me if I had noticed any shift in my life as a result of doing his workshop.   I realized that EVERYTHING had shifted – and I suddenly saw that my life with my son had dramatically altered.   I wrote back to Landon:

“I was on a high for days… I felt free for the first time in my life! I am happy and I am sleeping soundly. I feel truly in the NOW every moment!   That alone is worth everything to me.”

“Then, an unusual – and totally unexpected – thing started to happen: my son started calling me often, our conversations were more intimate, non-threatening, and really loving. I mean, we had always been loving to each other before, but there was something else there.  I’m still not sure I can put my finger on what it is…”

“It culminated in my son making a very favorable comparison of the two of us – something he had never done before.  For years, he had been critical of the ‘outrageous’ way I dressed.  About two weeks after the workshop, he compared our fashion styles and said, ‘I always thought the way you threw something odd into the mix was a little ‘off-the-wall’ – like those leopard heels with the elegant black suit.  Now, I realize that I’m doing the same thing with these velvet slippers and no socks with MY suit. It’s a matter of style, and I got that from you.’   I almost fell over – my son had never aligned himself with me in any way previous to this – at least, not since he was a little boy.”

“It may sound like a small example, but what I started to see was that – now that I wasn’t worrying about him all the time – there was a different dynamic in our conversations…. a freedom for love to be expressed —  for intelligent, equal conversation to occur, for respect and consideration to be expressed and felt – by both of us.”

“I realized that what my worry (about his dying) had served to do was to hold him at arm’s distance while smothering him with my attempted control of his activities so that he wouldn’t get hurt…”

“What I finally got was that I was trying to control his life so that I wouldn’t ‘get hurt.’   I was interpreting his imagined death as a threat to my own survival because – how could I live without him?   I now feel that I could live with the fact that, in any given moment, my son is either alive or he is not, and there’s nothing I can do about that – except to love him no matter what.   Frankly, death would not affect my love for him at all – Love, I know, is eternal.”

“Our relationship gets more rich every day…. And, because I am free of my worry, I also have a lot more time to spend thinking about things at which I can be productive and successful.   I am opened up and expressed as I have never been before!   I feel as if I have gotten my life back – a part of me that I never knew I had! – with the added bonus of a more special relationship with my son.”

“Every now and then, I still get a tightness in my throat – while watching a movie where a child dies, or something awful happens at work… and my hand goes to my throat. But, now I recognize  that’s the trigger — I take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m OK, I am safe, my son is safe, and I am happy,’ and the feelings pass.”

That workshop with Landon was seven years ago.   It was the beginning of my new life – a life I work at every day — in a moment by moment choice for Love, for freedom, for peace – for aliveness!

Here’s to Aliveness!  Here’s to Life! 

Deliciously yours in the Joy of it all, Linda

 “‘God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore,  for the former things have passed away.’   And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'”    Revelations 21:4-5

 

LandonCarterThis is Landon Carter, who led my first workshop on transformation, described above.

Landon has written a book called, “Living Awake:  The Practice of Transforming Everyday Life.”   In that book, he describes the “Truth Process” as a process  in general;   and, specifically,  the process he did with me, which he describes on pages 88-94.   He calls me “Lucy” in that book.  The letter that I wrote to him after the workshop, edited in the story above, also appears in the book, on pages 152-154.  Landon’s book is a great handbook for living a transformed life — you can read more about it at www.landoncarter.com.

The quintessential transformation education “campus” —  and one where I participate a lot — is Landmark Education, the successor to EST, where Landon was a trainer many years before.  You can visit them at www.landmarkeducation.com.    They have centers all over the world.

Transformation is a never-ending  journey — and well worth the ride….  I promise you —  the ride of your Life!

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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