“Who Are You?”

September 24, 2012

“Who are you?”

Those were the opening words in the homily at mass today, given by a guest priest who is leading the church’s Mission this week.  His name is Father Mac Donald.  He has this charming Boston accent and wears a simple white cotton robe.  The light robe makes sense since he spends most of his time in the sun-kissed, warm Caribbean, traveling here for parish missions all over the city.  I’ve met him before.   He makes me think.  He did not disappoint today.

He told a story about a woman who was asked a series of questions:

“Who are you?”  She answered, “I’m an assistant at a bank.”

“That’s what you do.  I didn’t ask you what you do.  I asked, ‘Who are you?’”

“I have four children.”  “I didn’t ask if you were a mother.  Who are you?”

“I’m a wife.”  “I didn’t ask if you were married.  Who are you?”

This went on a little longer.  I thought, at the end of the litany of questions, he would have an answer.  He finally said, “I’m going to leave you with that question for right now.  Come to the Mission this week and we’ll talk about it.”

Who are you?

He told another story:

When Boris Yeltsin, the first popularly elected President of Russia, was interviewed after he resigned, he was asked who had inspired him when he faced the difficult task of leading his country through a stormy post-USSR Russia.  His answer?  “Lech Walesa.”

Walesa was the former electrician in Poland who became a union-rights and human rights activist.  He challenged the Polish communist government and founded  the Solidarity movement that peacefully toppled the government.  He was elected President of Poland, where he presided over Poland’s transformation from a communist to a post-communist state.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

When Walesa was asked who inspired him, his answer was “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the United States.”

Dr. King, a Baptist minister from Atlanta, Georgia, is one of our American heroes.  His “I have a Dream” speech is still quoted, and children growing up — who will never know him —  live in the glorious results of his peaceful fight for African-American civil rights in this country.  He changed the face of America.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through non-violence.  He was a charismatic, faith-filled leader who was assassinated in 1968.  His spirit is so powerful, he lives on in us to this day.

When Dr. King was asked who inspired him, he said, “Rosa Parks.”

Rosa Parks was a black woman who, in 1955, would not give up her seat in the “colored” section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man after the white section was filled.  She sat silently in her seat and refused to move.   She was arrested for Civil Disobedience.  Her defiance was an important symbol in the Civil Rights Movement.   She became an icon for what one person can do to make a difference in the world.

The priest asked us:  “Is it too much to imagine that one woman’s stand for herself would influence millions of people in the world, not only in the US, but in Poland and Russia, as well?  She knew who she was.”

“Who are you?”

Deliciously yours in the Oneness of it All, Linda

© 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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It is the two year anniversary of this blog.  I started it for Valentine’s Day in 2009 – and it has been a source of love and fulfillment for me every day since then.

I created this blog out of a course at Landmark Education called Power and Contribution.  It is my way to get my love out there into the world.   I am always grateful that you read it, that you email me to tell me how a story reminds you of something or someone in your life, that you comment on the difference it makes for you.  I am grateful to all of you!

Instead of a story, I’ve created a Valentine’s Day tribute – to you, to the full self-expression that is available to all of us, and, as an expression of my love:

1.               My son, Josh, has given me a special Valentine – one I cannot tell anyone about yet.  For me, that is VERY hard, but my friend, Jennifer Watt, helped me to think of this in a new way.  It is my “Secret Valentine,” the “yum, yum, yum, yummy” of my heart – like good chocolate, I can savor it, letting it melt slowly on my tongue, closing my eyes and enjoying the moment of it, the taste of it, the way it makes my heart glow in warmth and love.  There’s no one like Josh to me, so this Valentine is just the ultimate, the mountain-top, the Oscar of Valentines.  I am savoring every moment!

2.               Yesterday, I went to a chocolate tasting event given by my friend, Shana Dressler, to benefit her organization, The Global Cocoa Project.   I always held it before that I was a chocoholic, the word having an addictive connotation, like I have no control over it.  At the event, I met Clay Gordon and bought his book, “Discover Chocolate.”  While in conversation with him, he distinguished for me that I am not a chocoholic, I am a “chocophile”, a lover of good chocolate, a seeker for that which is sweet and beautiful and yummy in this life.  Thank you, Clay, for that distinction about myself – it is so empowering!  And, so very Who I Am, not just about chocolate, but about Life, about Love.  I’m a Love-o-phile!

3.               I am blessed to have the people around me that I do.  The special men in my life — all of them, my heroes:  My aforementioned totally lovable and loving son, Josh Feuer, who has been the source of Joy in my world; my incredibly supportive and amazing former husband, Fred Feuer, who has been my anchor and my rock through many a storm; my wonderful brother, Ralph Ruocco, who has distinguished “family” for me in a way that I’ve not seen before – and who is an example for me of everything that is giving and kind in this world; my coach, Tony Woodroffe, who opens the world up for me every time I have a session with him; my too-many-to-name dear friends and family – you are all a part of me; and, my dear readers, you have allowed me to become the writer that I’ve always dreamed I’d be — the one I’ve kept hidden inside all these years.  I am grateful for,  and to,  all of you!

I am declaring this year to be a turning point for me, for my writing, for my life, and a deepening of my love for you!  I will continue to write stories, and will add commentary, more reviews – of books, places,  and experiences.  I will also keep you posted on the memoir I am writing, currently titled, “The Beggar Laughed,” which begins when I volunteered at the armory with the victims’ families after 9/11 and ends with a revelatory experience at the Taj Mahal two years later.   The message is..  Well, that’s for you to read in the book…

Yum, Yum, Yum, Yummy…!   That is my mantra for the delicious life that I intend for me and for you this year!

Every day is Valentine’s Day…!

Deliciously yours in the Juicy-ness of it All, Linda

Follow me on Twitter @Linda_Ruocco

Visit The Global Cocoa Project at www.globalcocoaproject.org and see how you can make a difference for the cocoa farmers in the world.

Picture by Seneca Klassen on http://www.chocophile.com.

Visit Clay Gordon at www.chocophile.com (also accessed at www.thechocolatelife.com) and learn everything there is to know about fine chocolate!

Visit www.c-spot.com, the search spot for all things chocolate.

Visit www.lawofchocolate.com to find my friend, Sandra Champlain’s, CD of the same name.

Visit my amazing life coach, Tony Woodroffe, at www.twlifecoach.com!

And, last, – but not least, here is the link for www.landmarkeducation.com, a company that has an already-always listening for mine and everyone else’s Greatness that causes me to be that Greatness – and, I mean, no kidding!

© 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.

I have read every book Dr. Wayne Dyer has ever written.  Each time, I get something new about my life and I am always grateful for that.

When I received his new book, a re-released gift edition of “The Power of Intention:  Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way”,  I felt both excited and resistant.  Excited, because it truly is a beautiful book:  not only a gloriously colorful cover, but also, each page has different graphics in a unique-for-each-page color motif.   This is the book that I will be giving as a gift to my friends – a pretty ribbon is all it needs, the book itself is so gorgeous!

The resistance was because I felt like I had read this all before and why did I need to read it again?

Once one reads and becomes familiar with Dr. Dyer’s teachings, one gets that the resistance itself is a sign that the “ego” is running wild in you —  and not the loving intention about which he speaks in all of his work.  So, I read the book all the way through and then put it down.   I did some of the exercises, randomly selected throughout the book, over the next few days.  I saw my own life open up in love and compassion for myself and my fellow human beings, walking around here on this planet, doing whatever it is we all do to make a life.

This is what I always get from his books.

Then, I read it through once again – this time with the willingness to see something new  from what I initially perceived to be similar information to what he’s taught and written about before.

This time, standing in my willingness and vulnerability, I got the world.  His message is so simple, yet so profound:  We are all part of the Source we came from – we always were, we are now, and we always will be.  And, that Source is loving and kind and creative and beautiful and expansive and abundant and receptive.  And – so are we, when we allow ourselves to remember who we are.

Aye, there’s the rub…

We don’t allow ourselves to remember who we are most of the time – we are too busy, achieving and accumulating, being successful, or trying to – and never quite feeling fulfilled in the process.  When it’s about the material world, it can never give us what we really need, which IS that connection to Source.

This last time I read the book, I gave myself the time to relax with it, with no where to go and nothing to do – and I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be:  there is nothing to get and no where to go – it’s ALL right here, right now.

“The Power of Intention” is a perfect compendium of all of Dr. Dyer’s teachings.  Part 1, “The Essentials of Intention”, explains what the “power of intention” is, while Part 2, “Putting Intention to Work” distinguishes how that power of intention plays out in the different areas of our lives.  He covers self-respect, living your life “on purpose” (a concept he has been teaching for as many years as I’ve been reading him), being authentic and peaceful with your relatives, success and attracting abundance, living a tranquil life, attracting divine relationships, healing and being healed, and how to open up the genius that is in all of us.

The more I read the book the second time, the more peaceful I became.  By the time I reached Part 3, “The Portrait of a Person Connected to the Field of Intention,” what was clear to me was THAT PERSON is the person I want to be – and sitting there reading and being reminded that I am already there – Well, that is the gift of this book.

For all you Wayne Dyer fans out there, this is the book to have by your bed to remind you every day that you are connected to Source.  For those of you for whom this will be your first toe-dip into the “Dyer stream”, read it through on a Saturday night, wrapped up in a comforter, and be reminded that Source is like that, forever wrapping you in the love that is always there.

Your life will never be the same.

Deliciously yours in the Loving Intention of it All, Linda

Here is the link to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book, “The Power of Intention:  Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way”:

http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=JZjyJRjtyzs&offerid=206928.10000086&type=4

Disclosure:  I received Dr. Dyer’s book, “The Power of Intention” 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.

“I’ve found that every spiritual advance I’ve made was preceded by some sort of a fall – in fact, it’s almost a universal law that a fall of some kind precedes a major shift.”  

THIS was the sentence that stopped me cold in my reading of Wayne Dyer’s new book, “The Shift: Taking your Life from Ambition to Meaning.” 

I was reading – and loving — this book, a companion book to Dr. Dyer’s movie of the same name, ‘The Shift,” that came out last year.  I watched and enjoyed that movie then and  — loyal Wayne Dyer fan that I am — always intended to re-watch it so I could take notes on his always wise observations on life.   I never got around to that.    

I was relieved when I heard he had written a companion book – “How considerate of him to realize that we frustrated note-takers would appreciate a summary of everything he said in the movie.”   I was so involved in the stories in the film — the stories that illustrate, in each case, a character’s or a couple’s fall, or near destruction as a result of the ego’s  striving  — to a choice for meaning — and love — in each character’s life.  

As I read the book, I arrived at that passage and stopped to reflect – “Yes, that’s exactly how it’s gone for me” — personal and career falls, followed by a yearning for something more, a shift to something greater in my spirit, that often resulted in some beautiful revelation about myself or the world or the Universe, or God, Himself – and generated a transformation of my own world view, my own Being – so that the competition I felt before transformed into willingness, the judgment transformed into empathy and compassion, and the feeling of “I’ve got to make this happen” transformed into surrender to the God of my mind and heart. 

Dr. Dyer’s new book, besides being the companion book to “The Shift” movie, is also a lovely sort-of “handbook” to his spiritual philosophy –  not an in-depth  analysis of the “Tao Te Ching” that his previous book, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life”  is,  nor a how-to book like “Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits,” both of which I also read and liked very much. 

 “The Shift” is a synopsis of a spiritual world view grounded in purpose and meaning. 

It is, at 112 pages, a short book for Wayne Dyer, and for that, a very appealing one.  Dr. Dyer gets to his point quickly – a life based in ego thoughts can never be ultimately satisfying, given, as the ego is, to always wanting more. And, then, the dreaded sentence: “a fall of some kind precedes a major shift.”  Somehow or other, there is some kind of “fall” – a set-back, a disappointment, a divorce – or almost one, losing a job or a project – something that takes us down so low that there is a danger of losing our way in life.  It is often at those low points that we see something we never saw before. 

What is possible to see in those falls is that there IS another way – a way that leads to fulfillment and joy –  finding, or suddenly realizing, one’s purpose. 

Dr. Dyer’s books always seem to come to me at just the right time in my life – I often get the feeling that he sits in his study in Maui writing just for me.  I think his message this time could very possibly be for the entire world.  

We’ve just been through a financial crisis – one marked by the drive of greed, ambition, and cut-throat competition – all ear-marks of the ego gone wild.  If this isn’t a fall, I don’t know what is.

What do we do now?  Dr. Dyer paints a clear choice.  We can either go back to the ego driven world we had before – and, I say, there are signs that is happening in many quarters.  Or, as Dr. Dyer suggests, we can look within, and find those places where we can make a difference – and look to serve an end beyond ourselves. 

The journey to Meaning, Dr. Dyer asserts, is to raise our consciousness from our own material wants and desires and find that for which we came – to serve others, to serve humanity, to serve the world.    

Dr. Dyer’s message is,  “…making the shifts to humility, trust, and letting go feel natural because we’re rejoining our original nature.  A life of meaning is only a thought away.” 

What will you choose?

Deliciously yours in the Source of it All, Linda

Here is the link to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s, “The Shift:  Taking Your Life From Ambition to Meaning” at his website:  http://www.drwaynedyer.com/

© 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.

  
 
 
Dear Readers,
 
Valentine’s Day is the first year anniversary of this blog. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, my loyal readers,  and so I celebrate you with a shift from my usual story.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A sonnet for you on Valentine’s Day: 
 
  
To have arrived here – takes me back to time alone
in youth;  Those lovely hours dark and late at night,
Huddle’d in bed, reading book or fantastical poem,
My mother’s vain urging to turn out the secretive light
fell on deaf ears as longing and fantasy reigned free.
Intrigue and romance drew  me far from  my childhood room,
“A moment!” I called, though sleep I would not soon seek,
Still gone, away from the dark of reality’s seeming gloom.
 
Those journeys of heart were solace and peace to my mind
without which my shy and aching spirit could not engage
those days perceiv’d as fearful; in words I sought to find
adventure and freedom, expression on beauteous page.
 
My friends, your loyal attention here doth prove
again, that mind creates world; with thanks, my love.
 
 
Happy Valentine’s Day! 
 
Deliciously yours in the Gratitude  of it All,  Linda
 
 
“But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little Valentine stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day”
  ….”My Funny Valentine,” by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart
 

© 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.

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.

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.

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