It’s that time of year when we all are trying to live up to our New Year’s resolutions.  How are you doing?  Are you still on target? Or, after only two weeks, are you back to old familiar habits and ways of being, those resolutions already forgotten, those promises and dreams for 2012 already driven away by cynicism and doubt and “Oh, what the hell? This chocolate cake is just too good to pass up…”

I sat in church last week, listening to my favorite priest, Monsignor Stern, give his homily on just this very topic.   I didn’t want to hear it as I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions – I’ve never known one person in my life who has ever lived up to them, including myself.

But, what he said was different and new enough to resonate with me – he said, “Instead of thinking of a New Year’s resolution, think instead of a ‘mid-life course adjustment’.”  He gave examples, but none of them fit for me as much as that phrase made me think of the film I had watched the night before, “Jaws”.

There’s a part in the movie when they’ve got the barrels on the Great White shark and they’re trying to run along side of him.  The Captain, Quint, is out on the farthest part of the bow with the harpoon laying in his arms like a baby, yelling adjustments up to Matt Hooper, the marine biologist, who is steering the boat:  “Five degrees starboard!” and then a few moments later, “I said, five degrees starboard, Hooper!”  Quint wanted to be sure the huge shark didn’t get away from them.

And, so it is with our dreams, our goals, our intentions.  Do we simply say, “I’m going on a diet this year?” or do we set an intention to look and feel great twenty pounds thinner and watch and correct when we are running off course?  What are the dreams that you gave up on a long time ago?  Do you now say, “It’s too late?”

Don’t let your dreams get away from you.  Watch and adjust…   Keep pace with that huge prize…

Never give up.  Make that mid-life adjustment and full-steam ahead!  Okay, so maybe I’ll never be a prima ballerina, but I love dancing of any kind.  Am I doing that?  No.  So, time for a mid-life adjustment.  I’m not going to jump right into the Argentine Tango because I know I won’t stick it out.  But, I can start with Zumba fitness classes and get the feeling of the rhythm back again, feel the beat of the drums, hum along to the music – and I’m there!  I’m dancing!  Yay, Me!

There’s an old saying, “Change one part of your life and you change your whole life.”  That’s because life is holistic – the way you go into a swimming pool is the way you do all of life.  You just need to change one little thing and your whole life will change as a result – and then keep making those “five degree starboard” adjustments.

I remember that my father took up the guitar when he was in his 50’s.  We all made fun of him, but he kept at it.  He loved music – he used to listen to opera all the time.  He knew he would never be an opera singer, but he could pick up a guitar and take lessons and participate in life.

I never appreciated that lesson from my father when I was younger, but I sure do appreciate it now.  Life is growth.  Death is stagnation.  You can only dance when you’re dancing…

Five degrees starboard, Mates!  Happy New Year!

Deliciously yours in the Grand Opening Number of it All, Linda

The title is from a quote by Werner Erhard:

“You can only dance when you’re dancing. You can’t dance ‘by the numbers.’ You can’t dance when you’re checking to see if you’re dancing. You can’t dance when you’re comparing your movement to your ideal. In order to dance, you have to dance. That’s what freedom is. That’s who you are!”

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. 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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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.

“Every thought you think and every word you speak is an affirmation.”  In all the years that I’ve been reading Louise Hay’s books, I never quite got this before.

In her new book, “Experience Your Good Now!  Learning to Use Affirmations,” she makes this all clear right in the beginning:  what you say and what you think determines what your life will be — because it’s ALL affirmation.  You get to choose what comes out of your mouth and create everything in your experience — so make it a fabulous life!

I used to think that affirmations were another way of saying “positive thinking”,  but the fact is that we affirm everything that happens to us, whether wanted or not.  “Life sucks” is an affirmation – not a very life-enhancing one, but it is.   And, as Louise Hay points out, if you say that not-very-life-enhancing affirmation, “Life sucks,” all the time, your life probably WILL suck!

I’ve been reading Louise Hay since her landmark book, “You Can Heal Your Life,” was my bible when I was very sick the year that I left Bloomingdale’s.  That book was the catalyst for my taking responsibility for my health and well being – and making the choice that I wouldn’t be ill again.  I still seek out my well-worn copy when I have an ache or a pain and I want to get a handle on the mind/body connection and find out what my body is saying to me.   It’s never something I can’t handle because I’ve made the choice to be in charge of my life and my health.  “You Can Heal Your Life” gave me that power and freedom to choose to be healthy.

This new little treasure is the first time I’ve seen affirmations explained so powerfully.  Louise points out that they are the beginning:  “An affirmation opens the door.  It’s a beginning point on the path to change.  In essence, you are saying to your subconscious mind: ‘I am taking responsibility.  I am aware that there is something I can do to change.’ When I talk about doing affirmations, I mean consciously choosing words that will either help eliminate something from your life or help create something new in your life.”  There it is, in a nutshell.

What I love about this book are the different chapters for different parts of our lives:  Health, Fearful Emotions, Love and Intimacy, Forgiveness, Work, Friends, and the bane of my existence, Money (Whoops!  There I go — “bane of my existence?”  No!  I’m done with that — “I now accept limitless abundance from a limitless Universe!”).  It didn’t surprise me at all that I don’t have the negative self-talk about the other areas, but the minute I hit the “money” chapter – there it all was before me:  every disempowering thought I’ve ever had about myself and money laid out for me to work on.  Even the opening quote, “Infinite prosperity is mine to share; I am blessed,” threw me into all my resistance!  I could hear my mind saying, “Really?  You’re so blessed?  So where is all the money?”  I caught myself with a “cancel, cancel” and continued to read – and to do the exercises.

The mirror work was the most effective – and the hardest – for me.  I didn’t want to talk to that 5-year-old girl inside me who held back the dime from the church collection basket so she could buy candy – and then got in trouble for “stealing from the church.”  I did talk to her, though, and I forgave her for not knowing any better and for just being a little girl who wanted candy.  I went through half a box of tissues doing that exercise, but I do feel clean inside — clean and at peace about that incident.

The book comes with a CD that you can play as you’re doing other things, and I’ve also been doing that every morning – just to remind myself how to do affirmations.   Affirmations only work if you do actually do the work!

Louise Hay helped me to change my life once before in the area of health and well being.  I’m looking forward to continuing this work now in the area of prosperity and abundance – I’m making abundance affirmations my new habit so that I “experience my good now!”

Thank you, Louise.  I’m taking it on.

“I give myself permission to prosper!”

Deliciously yours in the Limitless Abundance of the Universe,   Linda

In celebration of the release of Louise Hay’s book, Hay House is offering the chance to win a spot on their I Can Do It! At Sea Caribbean Cruise, Jan 28th to Feb 4th, 2011.  You can enter to win at  www.ExperienceYourGoodNow.com.

Disclosure:  I received Louise Hay’s book, “Experience Your Good Now!  Learning to Use Affirmations” for free from Hay House.

© 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.

Josh was four years old and all he wanted for Christmas was a toy record-player.

We spent hours composing our letter to Santa Claus, enumerating all the ways that Josh had been such a good boy that year:   helping Mommy and Daddy, putting his toys away  after he was finished playing,  and helping homeless people in the street… 

We walked hand-in-hand to the post office, mailing our letter to “Santa Claus, North Pole” and marking it “Urgent – Please read upon receipt” across the back of the envelope. 

A few weeks before Christmas, we were invited to my brother’s house in New Jersey for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Ralph has four girls, and the two youngest   – Jackie and Julie – were only eight months older than Josh – beautiful redheaded twins who adored Joshua — and he loved being around them. 

This time, though, Josh seemed upset that we were going to visit “the girls”,  as we called them.  With each passing day – each day closer to Christmas – he seemed to get more withdrawn.  Every now and then, he would ask me, “Do we have to go to Uncle Ralph’s for Christmas?” 

I didn’t get it.  I said, “Oh, Honey, you’ll have a great time!  You and the girls can play with all your toys and we’ll all be together!  Won’t that be fun?”  He looked down to the floor and walked away… 

Finally, after about four of these exchanges…  I followed him out of the kitchen into his room to find him sitting in the middle of the floor, just looking down at his hands… 

“What’s the matter, Josh?”   He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to go to Uncle Ralph’s for Christmas.” 

This time, I paid attention and didn’t brush it off… 

I sat down on the floor, next to him.  

“Honey, talk to me.  What’s bothering you?”  

With that, Josh put his arms around my neck, leaned into my chest, and started crying in earnest, “Mommy, how will Santa know where I am if we go to Uncle Ralph’s?   He’s expecting me to be here…”

I wrapped my arms around him and rocked him….  

“Oh, Honey, Santa knows EVERYTHING!    He’ll know where you are!” 

He looked up at me, eyes wide, “He does?  How will he know?” 

I thought for a moment.  I knew this was a very important question – for him and for me… 

“Josh, there are things we know, not because we can see them or touch them…  but, they’re real just the same.  We know these things in our hearts…  and I know that Santa knows where you are because you are in his heart…  Not just at Christmas time, but all year long – even when you’re  not thinking about Him…    You have to believe…” 

We sat there a little longer while Josh thought about this… He wanted to believe me, but I could see he wasn’t quite there yet…. 

“I’ll tell you what, Josh…  Why don’t we leave him a note?  Just in case he accidentally forgets…  I don’t think he will, but, if it will make you feel better, we can do that.  What do you think?” 

He thought that was a great idea…   

On Christmas Eve morning, we prepared to go to my brother’s house.  My husband, Fred, had taken all the presents – including the coveted toy record-player – down to the car and put them in the trunk the night before. 

Josh brought me a piece of paper and a crayon to write the note to Santa… 

“Dear Santa,” I wrote carefully, “Just in case you come here first, I just want to let you know that I am at my Uncle Ralph’s with Jackie and Julie.  Please bring my presents there.”  And, just in case Santa didn’t know how to get there, we gave directions, “Just look down from your sleigh and follow the New Jersey Turnpike…” 

While it was all I could do not to smile, I realized that this “crucible of doubt” was going to be a turning point for Josh – this was very serious business. .. 

We set up a little table between the fireplace and the tree – where Santa couldn’t miss it – and laid out His usual milk and cookies — the “bread and wine” of Santa devotion — and placed the note carefully between the glass and the dish…

We left for New Jersey.   But, not before Fred went back upstairs, “to go to the bathroom,” poured the milk back in the carton and left the glass where he found it, grabbed the note, and put the cookies in his pocket.

Josh had a great time that evening, playing with his cousins. As hard as they tried to stay up and sneak a peek at Santa, all the kids finally couldn’t keep their eyes open.  Off they went to bed. 

The next morning, I heard the excited screams as all the kids ran down the stairs.  I heard the whooping and hollering and crying out in delight at what they saw under the tree. 

I rolled over and said to Fred, “C’mon, wake up… we have to get these pictures…”   We pulled on sweats and walked out into the hall…. 

There was Josh, standing all alone at the top of the stairs.  The sounds of Christmas laughter  and the smell of cinnamon-Christmas-something were wafting up the stairs to us… 

“Honey, what’s the matter?  Why aren’t you downstairs with the others?” 

His soulful eyes looked up at me and he whispered, “What if Santa forgot me….?” 

I walked to him, kissed his cheek and took his hand, “Honey, remember what I told you?  I’m sure that Santa didn’t forget you…  He knows everything…” 

We walked down the stairs and into the living room where all the kids were tearing open packages and laughing… 

I went to the tree and picked the package I knew contained the record player.  I looked at the card to see whose present it could be….  “Oh!  Here’s one for you, Josh!”

I read aloud:

“Dear Josh, I know you’ve been such a good boy this year.  Merry Christmas, Love, Santa…” 

Josh ran to me and reached up for his present.  He dropped to the floor, and I sat with him, watching his face as he ripped open the wrapping… 

“It’s my record-player!” 

He looked up at me and then  straight into the camera that Fred held, and said…

“Oh, Mommy, you’re right!  Santa DOES know EVERYTHING!” 

Yes,  my dear, sweet child….  He does…. 

As I breathed in the tree lights,  beautiful sights, laughing sounds, and evergreen smell of Christmas, I silently thanked the SomeOne Else who really does know everything….  “Thank you, thank you… for this… for this moment… for this child….  for this family…  for all this Love…” 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all….  I wish you the greatest gifts…  Faith, Beauty, and Love… Miracles, creation, and Joy…

Believe. 

Deliciously yours in the Wonder of it All, Linda 

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   Hebrews, 11:1 

This is Josh at that “Ah-ha!” moment about Santa, with Julie and Jackie in the background and me and the record player in the foreground.  The Big Eyes tell the whole story….

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight.  The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.” 

*Note:  The title and this excerpt are from the famous editorial published in the New York Sun on September 21, 1897, entitled, “Is there a Santa Claus?” written by Frances P. Church.  Here is the link to the full editorial:  http://beebo.org/smackerels/yes-virginia.html

© 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.

DianeBWhiteGarden5I’m a real estate broker, and I just sold my penthouse listing that I’ve had for over a year.

When we first put it on the market last year, we had an offer in three days – great price, cash sale.  My owner almost couldn’t believe it – two guys walked in, took one look, and the next day, we had a great offer.

That was in August.  AND, in New York City, in a coop, it’s a good two to three months from “accepted offer” to closing.

A lot happened in the months between August and October, 2008, as we all know, But, they were doctors with not much stock market exposure, and so, it seemed that we would be OK.

I did their “board package” and applied to the board of directors. They passed easily  The day I called to tell them that they were approved to move into the building, the stock market dropped over 700 points.   The next day I got the call:  they were backing out of the deal, leaving their deposit on the table.

They were scared. Everyone was.   Soon, New York City was a barren real estate market  in an even bigger real estate desert. I went from having one of the hottest apartments on the market to being in the same boat with everyone else:  no customers, no mortgages, no sales.

Oh, did I mention that this particular penthouse apartment has a huge set-back terrace….?   There is room for a table and chairs, lounges, and a hammock. In the middle of Manhattan!   Once the sun crossed over the water tower on the building, there was bright sun all day on this beautiful terrace that faced South, West, and North.

After a few more false starts with customer interest and then wariness, we made a decision to take the apartment off the market for the winter.  My owners had relocated to Boston in the Fall, moving out in the middle of October as they had planned  – when they originally thought they would be closing.

I threw out the dead plants and we closed up the apartment.     It looked as forlorn and desolate as the entire market seemed.

As the Spring approached, we started planning to put the apartment back on the market.  We discussed how we would set up the apartment to get the most mileage out of  marketing the property.

We could have “staged” the empty apartment, but a terrace in Manhattan is a really big deal.   New Yorkers are funny about outdoor space.  You would think that they were never going to see a tree again.    So, in the toss up between moving furniture in and buying plants and landscaping the terrace.

My vote was for the terrace.

Once I said that, I cringed inside.  My owners didn’t live there anymore, and I live two blocks away.   My stand as a real estate broker has always been to do the extra things that make the difference to my owners and buyers.  I research the schools, I find out about moving companies, I supply lists of grocery stores and restaurants, dry cleaners and hardware stores in the neighborhood.  I’m a one-woman show.

And,  I’ve never been able to grow a plant in my life.  I have grand ideas about trees in my living room or plants in ceramic pots in the windows.  And they all die.  No sooner do I buy an orchid plant in full bloom than, one by one, the blooms fall off and the stem. turns brown….

I did have a neighbor once who taught me how to water her plants when she was away.  With that successful memory in mind, I offered my owner,  “Please  don’t worry.  I’ll come over and water every day.“  I knew I could do that much.

Secretly, I worried that something would go wrong and those beautiful plants would wither and die under my care.

I even remember, years ago,  when I took up Astrology and found out that I have no earth in my chart.  I thought, “No wonder all my plants die!  No wonder I don’t cook!  No wonder I’m not  ‘earthy’….”

It didn’t make sense to me.   My mother was an avid gardener.    She had flower gardens and a vegetable garden and hedges of lilacs around our property, and roses growing up the entire side of our garage.  When the lilacs bloomed, my mother would cut bunches and bunches of them  and fill every room in our house with bowls and vases of lilacs.  To this day, when I pass a corner store selling lilacs here in the city, and I smell their fragrance on the air,  I always think of her, and I am reminded of how much I miss her, and all the beauty that she gave me.

She was known for making things grow. One time, I asked her how she could spend hours on her knees, planting and weeding, and picking and arranging.  She told me that the flowers and vegetables kept her in touch with who she was, they kept her “grounded.”

I often heard her talk to her plants. She was as affectionate with them as she was with us.  I asked her why she did that and she told me that plants don’t grow unless they feel loved.  She said that talking to them reassured them that she loved them.

Well, maybe.  It was clear to me that she spent time with them, she took care of them, and there was something magical in what she did. Everything she touched, grew.  And,  I had no idea what that was!  If she wanted to call it love, that was fine by me.

The landscaper came in and set up the plants.  They were pretty, but hardly lush.  She told me that it would take awhile for them to “warm” to their environment. As she spoke, I thought, “Oh, no. This is just like my mother.  It’s not just about the watering.  There’s something more here to do.” I just didn’t think I had that magical quality  that could do it,  whatever “it” was.

Nevertheless,  I gave my Word and now I was responsible for them.   I came over every day and I watered.  I noticed that when it rained, the wind whipped around the edge of the terrace and knocked some of the plants over, so I made a point of going over when it was windy to move the plants up close to the apartment walls. I moved them around as they grew so that they could get the most sun; or, in some cases, when they got too much sun, I moved them into the shade for a day or so.

In the meantime, people were still scared, mortgages were still scarce, and this beautiful terrace sat, in the center of Manhattan, with no one living there.  Sometimes, I would go over with a book and read in “my” garden for hours.

I started going over, and, after I watered, I would read or meditate or work for a while.  Soon, I found myself stroking their leaves and buds until, one day, I opened the door to the terrace, and called out, “Hi, Babies, I’m here!”  I caught myself:  Now, I’m talking to plants?

And, they grew and they grew.

I had to stand pots up on top of other pots because the vines and the leaves were flourishing so much they had to be lifted up off the hot terrace tiles.    Verdant and luxuriant, a garden to be proud of.   I sent pictures to the landscaper and she wrote to me, “Boy, you really have a green thumb!  They look great!”

I do?  I have a green thumb?

One day, I noticed that one of the evergreens had these little pine cone-looking things.  I thought that was odd.  None of the other evergreens had little pine cones.   After a week or so, I noticed that the leaves on that particular evergreen seemed to be thinning.  As I watered, I got up close to the tree, curious about those funny appendages hanging down. and then, one of them wiggled.  I pulled my face back quickly.  what was THAT?

I finished watering and put the hose away.  I came back to that tree and just stared at those “pine cones.”  Suddenly, out of the top of one of them, I saw this big, black worm raise his head and pull himself up from the opening.

I recoiled from what I saw.  What could this be?  And, as I looked at all these “pine cones” hanging down, I realized that these weren’t supposed to be there — could there be black worms in every one of those cones?

That did it!  Nothing was going to mess with my babies.  I ran inside the house and grabbed some paper towels and came out and pulled every one of those “pine cones” off that tree.  Harder than it looked, mind you.  There was something that looked like silk thread that tied those cones to the tree.  Finally, I thought I had gotten them all.  I took them inside and tied them into a plastic garbage bag and threw them out.

When I got home, I googled “worms in evergreens” and….  THERE THEY WERE!  They are called “bag worms” and I learned all about how they make their bags from the silk thread that they produce and they take some of the little evergreen needles and decorate their bags with them so that they look just like little pine cones.

I read for hours.  One woman commented that the gardener must stay vigilant because “those worms will drag those bags all over that tree.”

I learned that they use the wind and their silk to fly from tree to tree to infest other evergreens in the area.

No way was that happening.

The next day, I went over, armed for a fight.  And, sure enough, there were more bags in the very same area that I thought I had cleaned out.  I removed those and into the plastic bag they went.

I searched the entire terrace. I found one attached to the underside of the table. I found one on the evergreen nearest the infested one and removed that.  I even found one attached to the apartment’s brick wall.  It was trying to get itself over to the other side of the terrace!

I removed them all and have not found another one since.  There are other things to do to prevent them from coming back next year and I will work with the landscaper to be sure that happens.

After I removed them all, I walked around from plant to plant, reassuring them that I was there and I was taking care of them and no “bag worms” were going to get them, not if I had anything to do with it.

I called the landscaper and told her what I had found.  She applauded me for spotting them and taking care of the problem.  “Just think of it this way,” she said, “You just saved a tree.”

Wow!

That’s when I got myself in a whole new way.  I always held it before that nothing could grow around me.  Even when I saw myself as successful in other areas, it always bothered me that I couldn’t make flowers grow and I didn’t know anything about vegetables, and so I thought I wasn’t earthy or grounded.   I always thought I didn’t have what it takes, but that wasn’t it at all.

It struck me that I had been like those little “bag worms”, carting my “bag” of history and pre-conceived notions about myself around with me wherever I went, and now I see how deathly that can be.  The only reason I wasn’t earthy was because I believed I wasn’t.  I couldn’t make flowers grow before because I was convinced that  I couldn’t do that.

And that’s not the truth about me.

What there is to do is to create, to nurture:  to water and feed —  whether it be plants or flowers or people.  Or dreams. To be responsible for them, to speak to them so they always know how much I love them.

Anything could  grow in that space, don’t you think?

The apartment has been sold now and will close at the beginning of November.  I promised the new owner I would work with her on getting the landscaper in to take care of the trees for the winter and to be sure that the evergreens are sprayed for the “bag worms” so that there is no repeat of them next Spring.

You might think that I would be sad that I won’t be taking care of them anymore, but here’s what I’ve taken on: Those beautiful plants on the terrace taught me something important about myself, and I am incredibly grateful.   Now it’s time for someone else to enjoy them and take care of them, and, perhaps, to learn something, too.

There will be other gardens for me to grow.

Deliciously yours in the Beauty of it All,   Linda

“Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed…  that with the sun’s love
in the spring… becomes the rose…”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             …”The Rose”, Bette Midler

“The only way to change your story is to change what you believe about yourself….Every time you change the main character of your story, the whole story changes to adapt to the new main character.”
~Don Miguel Ruiz

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This is the terrace I’ve been caring for all summer….  These pictures were taken mid-Summer.  All these plants are twice as big now!

 

 

 

 

 

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And, these are the evergreens that I saved from the “Bag worms”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 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 “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

 

In a world of material beauty, it is often challenging to stay present to the real beauty in the world: love, compassion, kindness — without which the world would surely be a sad, dark, and lonely place…

I remember that my mother, in her vigilant attempt to keep me free from false pride about my own face or figure, would remind me that these were not the important things of life. If one of my parents’ friends would make a fuss about my looks, my mother would take me aside and whisper in my ear, “Just remember, Linda, beauty is as beauty does….”

Still, I spent most of my life enamored of beautiful people, beautiful clothes, and beautiful places and things… I spent most of my career in the fashion business where those things are one’s stock in trade – equally important to any merchandising or marketing talent one might actually have….

I left the fashion business years ago, not without some longing and regret, but always knowing that there was something else for me to do, something new for me to learn, something more for me to “get” about life…

How much I had changed became clear to me when I volunteered at the armory in New York City after 9/11 to work with the victims’ families — Here is a story that captures my altered view of the world….

I was sitting with a family whose husband and father was among the many who had not appeared anywhere after four days…. most people there were left without certainty about what had happened to their loved ones… and it was for the volunteers to sit with them, pray with them, get them some food – be there for them…

I heard someone say, “There’s Elizabeth Taylor!”

I turned, and, sure enough, there was Elizabeth Taylor with an entourage of about three or four people. She had on a long caftan and was walking with a cane. She was speaking with the men in her group and looking around the cavernous hall.

I had seen her in person many years before. When I was at Bloomingdale’s, I had been invited to a fund-raising dinner for an AIDS benefit. I don’t think it was called “AMFAR” yet – it was in the early days of the AIDS pandemic. It was a very elegant, star-studded, fashionable affair.

Elizabeth Taylor was the main draw.

I kept trying to get near her. She had always been my favorite actress, ever since I had seen the film, “National Velvet”. Her affair and subsequent marriage to Richard Burton was the tabloid fodder of my growing-up years. One time, I even drew this sexy black mole near where I had seen that she had one, and, at fifteen, I dyed my hair black and did everything I could to have her hairstyle, her make-up, her face. Alas, those are gifts one is born with, and so I eventually grew out of that phase. But, I never stopped admiring her in the years after I had given up trying to be her. If anything, she had gained more of my admiration for her continued work for AIDS victims.

I spent the whole time at the AIDS event trying to position myself to be near enough that I could see her up close – I wanted to see those violet eyes, that crowd-stopping face. I wanted to hear that whisper-y, sexy, Elizabeth Taylor voice just once in my life!

She had been heavy at some point prior to the event, but now was a very petite, slim woman with enormous breasts – a feature I had never noticed before. I attributed that to her beauty. Her face was so beautiful, and, of course, those eyes! No one in the magazines ever seemed to emphasize the rest of her figure except to report on its weight fluctuations.

I was about ready to give up hope of getting close to her when I was tapped on the shoulder by one of her bodyguards and asked to step to the side. I did and turned around – and there she was.

She was walking in my direction — She stopped to talk to someone about two feet away from me. I was stuck to the ground — I couldn’t take my eyes from her face.

People were pushing me to get near her. Usually, I would have let people get in front of me rather than stand my ground and possibly get trampled.   This time, I pushed back.   No one was getting between Elizabeth and me!

She turned back toward me — her bodyguard touched her arm to urge her onward. As she was turning, she looked right at me. It could only have been for a moment, but it was enough.

I saw them. I looked right at her face — and I saw them. The violet eyes. I felt as if I was close to some fabulous jewels that not everyone would ever get to see and I was one of those lucky ones. Her eyes were all I COULD see – and, they were violet. Beautiful, deep, purple-y violet.

She looked right at me.

As she walked by, she was mere inches away…. I couldn’t believe that I had actually been that close to her. ..

Everyone rushed past me to keep up with her, but I was rooted to the spot. Finally, I turned in time to see her being swept out the door.

Now, here she was again – older, heavier, clearly walking with difficulty, even with her cane. But, the face – there was no mistake. That was Elizabeth Taylor.

She kept looking around and her eyes finally settled on the family I was with. She walked towards us. I was sitting with my arm around the mother of the group. Elizabeth came over and sat down right next to us and then turned her attention to the rest of the family. She started talking to them. The mother had been crying and I had been comforting her — even we stopped to listen.

Her sexy, whisper-y Elizabeth Taylor voice somehow landed for me now as sweet and mellifluous, gentle and loving…

I don’t remember everything she said. She told them that she was so sorry and that she wished that she could do something. She took her hand and put it on the daughter’s cheek. She asked them questions about their father. She listened as they spoke. They asked her to sign their placard with his picture and she graciously did so.

She turned back towards the mother and said something to console her. Then she lifted her head and looked directly into my eyes. I looked back into hers. We were just being there together: Two people, wanting to help, wanting the pain to go away, wanting to make a difference…

I saw her eyes well with tears….

Her bodyguards helped her up and led her away. She looked around as she headed for the front door. She stopped a few more times and spoke to more people, but not for long.

And then she was gone.

It occurred to me…. I hadn’t noticed what color her eyes were…

I’m sure they were as violet and as beautiful as ever….

Something had shifted for me, though…. the beauty I saw that night was her transcendant beauty — a beauty of the heart in service to the world…

As my mother would say, “Beauty is as beauty does…..”

Deliciously yours in the Gorgeousness of it All…. Linda

“The ideals which have lighted me on my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully — have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty”. . . . Albert Einstein

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart.” … Helen Keller

© 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.

HotValentineChocolateIt’s Springtime…. and Love is in the air…!  It’s actually ALWAYS in the air,   but we aren’t ever-present to it… It’s nice when we can really listen and hear the message that it’s there, it’s alive, and it’s for everyone….

My friend, Janey, was walking in Soho the other day – and she couldn’t help but hear a couple talking behind her… mostly the man…

Man: “I love you so much, I just want everyone to know…!”

Janey heard sounds of giggling and kissing….

Man: “I want to rent a store down here and put a sign in the window so everyone can see it, ‘I love my wife so much!’”

More smooching noises….

Janey couldn’t contain herself anymore.  She turned around and said to them, “I didn’t mean to be nosy, but I couldn’t help but overhear you and I just want you to know what a wonderful thing that was for me to hear on the street today… There should be more conversations like that in the world every day!”

That conversation lit up Janey’s day… When she told me about it, it lit up my day as well….

It’s amazing what love can do…

It made me think of how we can be present to love in all its astounding revelations…   I remembered something that happened a few months ago that made me realize how much I would like to have true love in my own life…

I watch late night talk shows – my favorites are David Letterman and, right after him, Craig Ferguson.   To me, Craig is the “thinking man’s late night talk show host” – he’s incredibly funny AND there have been times when he has also been eloquent and serious — often about his own sobriety and who he’ll make fun of and who he won’t… I like that kind of integrity in my funny men…

Once, Craig had a show with guest Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, which lifted my spirits and made me smile for days afterwards… I laughed right along with how jocular and playful he was – I had always thought of Father Tutu as so serious before that night… It was lovely to see him interact with Craig in such a light-hearted way…

And…

For a very long time, I must have been holding it that there was this little “late night singles” thing going on here…   David Letterman only recently married his girlfriend of 23 years and with whom he has a five-year-old son, and Craig wasn’t married and never spoke of a girlfriend or about his personal romantic life at all….

And, of course, me…

In December, Craig’s mother died. He opened his show that night with the caveat that it would not be “comedy as usual” – that night was devoted to his mother and that’s what he would be talking about…

I was drawn, mesmerized, by stories of his mother and the funeral and the beautiful piece that he read from Victor Hugo’s “Toilers of the Sea” and how he finally ended the show with his mother’s favorite song – a song that he admitted was awful,  a calypso version of “Rivers of Babylon” by Boney M,   but that was her favorite song and that’s how we were going out that night….

And, yes, it IS a dreadful song….

I sat there with tears in my eyes as I listened to it….

Craig’s obvious grief stayed with me over the next few days… I found myself offering up my prayers for him… “Please take care of him, God… he seems so alone….”

After New Year’s, Craig returned from vacation – I knew it was vacation because it was two weeks of reruns – and the first image on the screen at the beginning of the show was Craig’s left hand – WITH A WEDDING RING ON HIS THIRD FINGER!

Yes!  Craig Ferguson had gotten married!   This show was upbeat and happy and full of possibility and joy!  He spoke of his new wife, Megan, and showed pictures of his wedding… a gorgeous picture at night in the snow in Vermont… Craig in a kilt (and joking about THAT all night, how the cold Vermont air and the deep snow took it’s toll on his traditional kilt-wearing…) and Megan in a white princess coat and muff…

I was so happy for him… sitting alone on my white couch in my living room….

At the end of each show, Craig puts his feet up on the desk and usually does a little “bit” on “What did we learn on the show tonight, Craig?”   That night, it was cute and sweet and about his wife and how he loves her and how he can’t flirt anymore on the show… “but if we ever get George Clooney on this stage, all bets are off…”

He ended it with…

“Put the kettle up, Megan, I’ll soon be home…”

I was suddenly moved…. what he said and the way he said it was so intimate and loving and …

I knew that I wanted that for myself…

Perhaps soon, one of you will be walking up the street and you’ll hear a couple behind you talking and giggling and smooching… and the man will be saying, “I always wanted to love a little red-haired girl like the one in Charlie Brown and now I have you…. “

And, you’ll turn around… and I’ll wink at you…

Deliciously yours in the Joy of it All, Linda

A few people have written to me  requesting the piece  from “Toilers of the Sea” that Craig Ferguson read on his show to celebrate his mother’s death.  I didn’t put it here because this was mean to be a happy story; however, it is a beautiful passage and so I offer it here for you:

“I am standing upon that fore shore.  A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She’s an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs as a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. 

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she’s gone.”  “Gone where?”  Gone from my sight, that’s all. 

She is just as large in mast and spar and hull as ever she was when she left my sight, just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. 

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.  And, just at that moment, when someone at  MY side says, “There, she’s gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout,  ‘Here she comes!’ 

…and that is dying.”              

 From, “The Toilers of the Sea,” by Victor Hugo

 © 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.

chocolate-heart-sl-257663-lHi, Everyone!  It’s Linda here again… And, Oh, what a delicious treat I have for you!!    I love stories about my friends because they are the delights of my life…

AND we aren’t always wonderful with our friends… are we?    And, if we can’t always be great with our friends — if we can make even the ones we love wrong, what chance do we have with the world? 

There’s a way out, but it doesn’t come easy….  AND it’s worth the effort….  

See if you agree…. 

This is a story about two of my friends who taught me an amazing lesson about love…   actually, I think we all taught each other an awesome lesson about life and love and partnership  and communication and being together in relationship… 

The three of us were in a yearlong course together this year called “Power and Contribution” – all about taking a stand for what we want to see in the world — making a promise to the whole world that we will live inside of for the rest of our lives….     Mine starts out, “By 2025, I promise a world in which all people know themselves as lovable and precious….”    Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? 

So, what shows up when you take a stand like that?  THAT….being loving, treating everyone as the precious Beings that we all are…  and everything that is NOT THAT!  Not feeling lovable and precious, making it so everyone around me doesn’t feel lovable and precious….  

It really takes something for me to stay present to my stand for myself and the world ALL THE TIME…. sometimes, I wonder if it’s even possible… and then…   I create it all over again that it is MY possibility… and I’m alive once more, joyfully living inside my promise! 

So, here’s Laurie and Shana and me – all up to really great things – all three of us committed to life and to each other and to everyone else in the course…. and, to even greater things…. to everyone in the World! 

I was at Shana’s house a couple of weeks before our fourth weekend of the course….  five of our group showed up and it seemed like everything was going great… we ordered food in, we shared what we were up to…  the only downer of the evening for me was that I looked in my handbag to find my wallet to pay for dinner and it wasn’t there.  I was scared at first that I had been pick-pocketed on the subway, but then I remembered that I had taken it out to buy something on-line… “Hmm…,” I wondered….  “had I forgotten to put it back afterwards…?”  

No problem.  Shana covered me and I promised to give her the $11 at the reviewer’s Landmark Forum that we were doing that weekend…. 

Shana pulled out boxes and boxes of chocolate…  She had had a chocolate-tasting event as a fund-raiser the week before… and, now, here we were, all tasting, yet again, all these different kinds of delicious, delightful chocolates…..  

(You all know I LOVE chocolate, right?) 

There was one in particular that I loved… chocolate that had chili pepper in it…  what an unusual flavor!  Quite unexpected…. and so yummy… 

As we all got ready to leave, we helped Shana clean up and put everything back….  I saw that there were three pieces of the chili chocolate left in the package…  I couldn’t resist….  I called out to her, “Can I take these home?” 

And, off we all went… 

I saw Shana briefly on Friday as the Forum got started, but when I sought her out later, she was nowhere to be found… 

The course was so glorious…  I thought, “How could there be anything new to get out of the Landmark Forum after all this time?”  Wow, how wrong could I be…!  it’s all about “seeing with new eyes” and we get to do that all the time…  like an adventure to a new land each and every day… 

When I arrived home Saturday night, I realized that I hadn’t seen Shana at all that day….  Hmmm….  “I wonder what happened?”  

I dashed off an email to her…  “Where were you?  I have your money for you….  AND, is everything OK?” 

I awakened early Sunday morning for Day 3 of the Landmark Forum and did a fast fly-by of my emails….  There was one from Shana – she explained that she had left mid-day on Friday with a head-ache…. and, then she wrote, “Can we speak on Monday because something has been on my mind and I think it’s time we talked…..”   

What could that be? 

I wrote back that if anything was bothering her, I wanted to clean it up right away….  could we talk that day on one of my breaks?  “Call me,” I wrote. 

It sat in the background all day….  It didn’t  ruin the day… but there was an “incompletion” there – this gnawing feeling that something was wrong… 

I watched myself in action over the next few days…  I went from worried:  “What did I do wrong?” to frantic:  “What’s this all about?” – and then, in crept the anger….  “What the….???” 

Human beings are so funny, really….  we make up stories of what something is about because we cannot stand not to know, then we believe those stories, then we make the other person wrong and we justify ourselves….  and, half the time, we don’t even know what it’s all about in the first place!!!  

What made it even more frustrating for me was that it was a busy week for both of us and we kept missing each other’s calls…. the longer whatever it was stayed in the air, the worse it got… 

By the time we got to San Francisco the following weekend, we could barely speak to each other….!  We tried to talk about what was there for each of us…  Who could hear anything?  What was there for both of us was anger, defense, justification…. 

She was annoyed at me for talking too much,  for taking the chocolate, and for forgetting my wallet… 

I was annoyed that she threw a “sour” note into my Forum weekend and didn’t give me the opportunity to get things “straightened out” between us….  When she brought up the chocolate…  I really lost it…! 

“Lovable and precious…?”  Hah!  We were like vipers in a nest…. 

And, we were roommates! 

And…. we REALLY love each other. 

We finally got it that we couldn’t do this ourselves… we needed someone who was not involved to “mediate” this – whatever “this” was…  we both knew that it wasn’t really about what we said it was about…  we were “hooked” by something…. something that reminded each of us of a time when we felt small… and now something triggered that hidden feeling… and both of us were right “there” again…. 

Like two little three-year-olds, fighting over a toy…. 

We agreed that we would ask our friend – and our other roommate – Laurie, to help us resolve what was there to resolve….   What’s important here is that, as annoyed as each of us was, we were committed to getting it cleaned up with each other… we knew that our friendship was too important, too rich, to allow “stuff” to get in the way…

And now… Let me tell you about Laurie….  amazing master of transformation that she is….  She’s been a Course Supervisor at Landmark Education for years….  really present, really authentic, really courageous… 

She took it on…  She took us on… 

Later that night, the three of us sat in our room…  With Laurie’s guidance, we said what was there for each of us…  starting with the surface and going deeper into what was there from an earlier, similar time in our lives…. 

It was tough… at first, we couldn’t even listen to each other…  AND we kept talking, getting it all out…  What was critical in this process was to just let the other person say what was there for them, without trying to defend it or explain it away or justify it…  That was what Laurie was being vigilant about… to remind each of us…. “Just ‘get’ the communication…. that’s how it is for her, do you get that?”

For Shana, it was about being taken advantage of….  a story that is not mine to share here —  that my asking for the chocolate and forgetting my wallet took her right back in time… 

For me, it was the always worrying that I wouldn’t please my father and he would be angry…  and an incident when I was little that got triggered in me by Shana being angry that I didn’t bring a chicken that I had promised I would bring to an earlier gathering, but forgot…. 

I remembered when I was 8 years old and I wanted to play with this group of girls… they saw that I always looked at them and finally, they asked me to come to their “club” the next day – but I had to bring something… cookies or cupcakes… 

I was so excited.  I got DRESSED UP and went to meet them with a box of chocolate-chip cookies….    They came up to me, grabbed the cookies out of my hands, and ran away, laughing…. 

I ran home, crying… 

Never again, I thought…. 

I found myself blurting out to Shana, “This reminds me of the girls who didn’t want me, they just wanted my cookies…”   Wow!  I didn’t realize that was how I saw it!

Sounds silly, doesn’t it..? 

That’s our lives…. incidents happen and we make decisions about others and about ourselves… and, if we’re not aware… anything that looks like that now can take us right back — into that hurt…  into the pain… 

It didn’t have anything to do with a chicken or pieces of chocolate…..   

It never does… 

We kept at it….   each time we thought we had released everything, Laurie would ask us if there was “anything else there?”…  and, for more than an hour…. there WAS more…. 

Until there wasn’t… 

Until there was nothing but this beautiful space…. and out of that space emerged the love that we both have for each other…  that the three of us have for each other…  We were moved beyond anything we could speak of right then…. 

Soon, hugs and kisses and laughter rang through the room… 

We climbed into our beds and turned out the lights.  We were quiet, but we were all aware of what we had just done.  We were fully present to the love….   all three of us said… softly… and almost at the same time, “This is the most awesome thing — what we’ve done here….”, “I am so in love with the two of you…”, and, finally: 

“What if everyone in the world did this?” 

Well, then… All people would know themselves as lovable and precious….

Deliciously yours in the Beauty of it All!   Linda 

“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself.  As you treat him you will treat yourself.  As you think of him you will think of yourself.  Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.”  

“A Course in Miracles”, Text, page 142

© 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.

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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