Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Counting down to the countdown...

Tick tick tick - I never feel so aware of time as when I realize there's something time specific I want to say on this blog and right now is one of those times. From Nosara beach in Costa Rica on retreat with my teacher Shiva Rea, hanging with a bunch of amazing people from around the world, I've been thinking lots about all the little breakthrough moments that have made my year a little brighter than it might have been otherwise. While I'm sure lots of you write gratitude lists - after all, even Oprah writes and advocates gratitude lists - in honor of the kind of year and decade I'm hoping to have, this post is dedicated to those breakthrough moments...may there be many, many more.

1. Teaching 300 NYPD officers to meditate
2. Peacefully ending an unhealthy relationship
3. Getting a puppy after YEARS of wanting one (yes, this is perhaps related to #2)
4. Spending a week on a lake with no visitors, no TV, no radio - just silence
5. Learning to drive a motorbike
6. Winning clients on national and global levels
7. Leading workshops for Harvard Business Review
8. Growing my hair beneath my shouders for the first time since college
9. Learning to surf (related 100% to being in Costa Rica this week but not represented at all accurately by the amazing photo above)
and (after a year that if it were a song it would be sung to the blues including all the maladies we've all been reading about in the headlines this year)...
10. Recovering my belief in possibility and deep love for this very brief pageant we call life.

Thanks for giving me a place to share this, internet world, and thanks to whomever is reading this for following the journey.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Re-Birth Day

Last night I threw my annual birthday-holiday fete. A bit of a challenge all these years not because of any primal experiences in the birth canal, but because with great hemispheric accuracy it falls in the middle of winter holidays (when I was little), final exams (in my teens and early twenties), and now competes with cold/flu and holiday party season. Among health, holiday challenges and the fact that I seem to send invites at the very very last minute, in the midst of regrets s'il vous plaƮt I take great comfort that I'm not alone in celebrating this day. In fact, the entire nation of Mexico and many other Catholic countries celebrate the day I was born.

No matter my intentions to live a remarkable life, they don't do this because of anything I did. By chance or grace, on December 12, 1531 the image of the Virgin Mary appeared in a little town in Mexico called Guadalupe. Lucky for me, I like religion in general and so whenever I get to hang around Mexicans here in NYC I love bragging that I am a "Lupita"- the nickname for anyone born on the day of the virgin - I love having a little extra zing in my birthday specialness.

You can probably tell that birthdays are important to me. Not for presents or hogging attention, but in a busy world they offer the potential for a ritual of recognition of all the life experiences that have combined in my life to make me the person I am, and to honor the many others who provide love and support for me to become the person I want to be.

Each year I look for ways to make these day-of-birth parties special by having a theme on the hunch that when we create a context for connection we're more likely to authentically connect and have real fun. Past years themes have ranged from human scavenger hunts in my apartment to "show and tell" where people share something they have created. One year we did a dj competition and the next we karaoked until sunrise. This year I asked folks to offer their favorite quote - from Raising Arizona to Winston Churchill, I figured whatever inspires my friends has to be inspiring.

What better gift than inspiration? I got exactly what I asked for. In hopes it is equally a gift of inspiration for you, here's a sampling:

Fail better
-Samuel Beckett

It could be better, but it's good enough
-Chinese Fortune Cookie

There was never a king like Solomon
Not since the world began
Yet Solomon talked to a butterfly
As a man would talk to a man
-Rudyard Kipling

All afternoon, Sir
your ambassadors have been turning
into lakes and rivers.
At first they were just clouds, like any other.
Then they swelled and swirled; then they hung very still;
then they broke open. This is, I suppose,
just one of the common miracles,
a transformation, not a vision,
not an answer, not a proof, but I put it
there, close against my heart, where the need is, and it serves the purpose. I go on, soaked through, my hair
slicked back;
like corn, or wheat, shining and useful.
- Mary Oliver

Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to killed me / and has failed.
~ Lucille Clifton

There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.
~ Washington Irving

And this one, too, from wondrous Rumi:

you suppose you are the trouble
but you are the cure
you suppose that you are the lock on the door
but you are the key that opens it
it’s too bad that you want to be someone else
you don’t see your own face, your own beauty
yet, no face is more beautiful than yours
~ Rumi

And of course my own favorite quote which ties this admittedly rambling post together. With my birthday patron saint Mary as a symbol of the mothers' loving compassion, in honoring the journey and beauty of my own life there's no greater cause to celebrate than the profound impact of my relationship with my own mother. As in any relationship, I certainly did not always understand her, and it took more than two decades for us begin to like much less really fall in love with eachother. With an ironic twist, its crossed my mind more than once that it took her fighting cancer for us to finally stop fighting eachother. But somehow through it we got to that place beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing and uncovered enough space in our relationship to hold eachother's beauty in the very brightest light. The connection we created is my reference in understanding what this lesson called "love" really is.

Years since her death, I will never forget the day when minutes after having just delighted in finding the following poem sitting on my floor reading in NYC, my phone rang as she excitedly called me from her home in Cincinnati to share it with me.

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
- Raymond Carver

Wishing you re-birth every day,

With love,