The ACADEMi of Life, NYC
I have lost so many close friends and family members in the past 22 months...including my mother, my best friend of 37 years and my college roommate.
It made me realize that people die with so many stories untold.
I wanted to know more about my mother’s life and reasons for her not wanting to disclose the stories of her life. I forgot to ask my Mum what it was like living in England for three years without her babies! How did she manage sexual abstinence for 3 years at the young age of 27...or did she do, as others in her nursing school did, seek intimacy with other women.
I forget to ask my Dad why he enlisted in the RAF to support WWII and what the experience was like. Things I wanted to know were not shared or I did not ask.
I was discussing this issue with a friend who had recently lost her partner and she shared the poem below penned by her son.
“I was young and now I am old,
Here I sit a story untold.
Some days good and some days bad,
They passed so fast, more I wish I had.
Who will know and who will remember,
My story untold as my life nears December.
The young they dance, they sing and play,
I did that myself what seems like yesterday.
As life ends what is to come,
Is there more or is it done.
Remember me young or forget me old,
Yet here I sit a story untold.”
I was so moved by the poem, I asked my friend‘s son permission to include it in a blog post. He agreed and went on to share the reason for writing the poem.
"I wrote that poem after playing outside with my 5 yr old daughter. It made me remember being 5 years old myself (I am 37). It made me reflect on how little I really knew about my grandparents and great grandparents.... about their character and their lives before I was born. Often all we have is a handful of memories or stories that other people share about such individuals. Can you imagine your entire life being summed up for someone else in a few short stories? It made me contemplate writing "my story"...just in case my kids, grandchildren and great grandchildren (if I ever have any) would know a little more about me... not for my benefit, but for theirs or just to satisfy their curiosity.
Also, while playing with my daughter, I reflected on how it is too easy to view elderly people as nothing more than just that.... an old individual, somewhat one dimensional or seemingly disconnected from the current happenings in the world....in spite of the lives they have led, for better or worse and all that occurred for them over the years (their life "story"). It also made me reflect on how I will be just "one of those old people" someday in someone else's eyes. When such people see me as an elderly individual sitting quietly alone, will they realize I was once a 37 year old man playing on a grassy hill with my daughter, a 23 year old marrying a woman he loves, a 19 year old living life hard and fast to the fullest, a 13 year old kissing his girlfriend for the first time or a 5 year old playing on grassy hill himself fully engaged in the moment? I doubt it. All they will see is an old man...a story untold.
When I wrote that poem I wrote it outside of myself in a sense. I thought of an elderly man setting in a chair alone, in his living room or perhaps in his 10 x 15 room within a "retirement community". I thought of how many people just pass him by, not even considering all that he has been through...the ways in which he has seen the world change, the wars he may have fought, the people he loved, the children he may have loved or lost, his failure, his vices, his sin, love, sacrifice and regret. How easy it is to forget that such an individual has a "life story"...a story that for the most part, for most of us will probably go untold and be known by few people at best. I don't so much think this is tragic, but just the way life is. However, I think it is good not only for individuals to share their life story, but also for individuals to hear it.
Beyond that, I'm not sure why I wrote that poem. The poem literally took less than a few minutes to write. It just kinda came out that way given all the things I was thinking. I sent it to my Mom since she recently lost her partner”
As we prepare to spend time with our loved ones this holiday season, remember to ask about those untold stories before it’s too late, and while you are at it…write your own story. Have a joyful and peaceful holiday season.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
12 YEARS A SLAVE AND COUNTING
Yes, I went to see the movie, 12 Years A Slave.
I will probably be the least popular person on earth right now but I hate to say this, I have seen this movie a thousand times before. And to be honest, I have liked others better, Django Unchained for example, because there was some redemption.
When I sat in that movie theater, I was hoping against hope that Steve McQueen, the director, had exercised full creative license in telling this story. I wanted him to focus on the Freed Slave and all that he had accomplished before delving into his capture into slavery. And then, I was hoping he'd come full circle and show us how this strong man rebuilt his life after experiencing the brutality of his capture. How he came to write the book, for example. I wanted that, maybe even needed that...to be taken full circle into the before and after life of Solomon Northup.
That was the story I wanted to see.
I know that story is not in the book but that's where creative license comes in. Right? Can we re-imagine and right history?
To be frank, I'm so very tired of the slave story in the way that it is always told...broken, fearful, and valueless. I know for sure, that there were triumphant slave stories to be told. Those are the stories I am interested in...the heroic acts of people in bondage. The revolution being televised.
I'm not minimizing this horrific Holocaust of African Slaves but my God how can we tell the same story for 400 years...without asking why we are still here...still fighting...still winning...still forgiving...where did that indomitable spirit come from?...where is our Schindler's list story....12 Years a Slave was not it.
I am ready to see the story of the Maroons defending themselves successfully against the British. The Peace treaty of understanding...come to the hills and you no longer exist...The Amistad revolt, the story of the ‘enough is enough’ position that so many slaves took, ready and willingly died for…the mother who jumped ship rather than bear a child into slavery...
Where is the story of their dignity and their nobility?
I want to see the story of slavery through the eyes of a conscious white man such as the one Brad Pitt played in the movie and I want to see the psychology and pathology of rabid white slave owners who believed the evil of slavery was their right. I want their madness and inhumanity expose like the flesh on the back of slaves.
I want to see the stories of the Warmth of Other Suns...I want to see the winners of this history both in black and white. I am not that interested in the story which has been told over and over again…I need a new angle...And who really lost? Everyone.
I think it is extremely important that we teach our history. It provides our off-springs the knowledge and appreciation of our collective stories and the fierce quest we raged for freedom. This is the history that must be taught: a story of strength and resilience rather than a pity story.
The survival history of people of color is a story that is as great as any story of the bible...David and Goliath, Sampson and Delilah, the Israelite's quest for salvation and deliverance from persecution. We must teach our story in that way...the way that uplifts and motivates rather than one that creates shamefulness and distortion.
The truth is, and everyone knows it, there would be no modern world economy without slaves...and those slaves came in every shade of color, East Indians, Native Indians, Aboriginal Indians, Asians, Africans, Irish, Australians, English, French and Spanish.
I truly think that this is the perfect time for a conversation about all the co-creators of the world. A global conversation that allows all parties to face the true reality of how this world economy was created. A conversation that gives rise to new stories.
I know what Slavery was for Blacks in America and the world over...heinous and evil…and in America more evil than the world had ever seen... Isn't it time to sit at the table of prosperity and simply ask for our share of the wealth we created plus interest....when are we going to make that story? When we do, I'll be in the front row, center of the theater because that will be a story within a story and I'll be interested.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Sitting with Gratitude
Written by Sarika Jain, AVP, Strategy and Innovation
Last night we had a beautiful Awakin sit here in Manhattan, where we shared our reflections on our daily life and on the heart-opening passage, ‘Micro Moments of Love’. Through each sit I attend, my heart fills with gratitude for the group wisdom, the buddha, that emerges through powerful reflections from the heart. This latest jewel of collective wisdom of the sangha is what I wish to share with the community today.
Bah, as described to the group, is a Japanese word that describes the energy that exists in the physical and energetic space between two people vibrating at a high frequency. It is the magical electric current of love that comes alive between two people as they share a joyful, love-filled connection. What is it, and how does it manifest in everyday life?
Self-love and self-acceptance seem to form the basis of being able to fill our hearts with the ability to share love-connections with others. As we process our positive feelings, or even difficult human emotions of anxiety, anger, stress, confusion, amongst others, are we able to observe them mindfully, to accept them as part of who we are? To empathize with and have compassion for the different parts of us, and to surrender and accept what is, helps create a sense of peace and equanimity, a sense of contentment; a place from where the heart can start flowing, like sap oozing from a tree. When we love ourselves, and engage in contemplative practices such as sending gratitude to different parts of our body, we begin to take better care of ourselves – eating better, working out, taking care of our spiritual body through meditation and yoga, amongst other examples. We begin to cherish our unique gifts and want to share these with the world, no matter what we perceive the return is, as our hearts begin to sing with love and joy.
Compassionate listening is another form of sharing love with someone - it generates the possibility of creating deeper connections and a transformation in our thinking. As we begin to lovingly listen to others, even in moments of stress and agitation, taking a few deep breaths and mindfully observing our feelings and emotions, we begin to have greater awareness for ourselves and others. We fill the space in between us with a loving, patient energy as we listen; creating a soft cushion for healing and transformation. Acceptance and forgiveness become easier to practice in this state of listening.
Loving speech, the other side of the coin of compassionate listening, leads to a deeper connection between people, and can be seen as gifts or jewels which has the effect of transforming a difficult situation, bringing love, joy and a sense of communion and understanding.
We have the opportunity to share physical love with a total stranger, even if they seem foreign or potentially threatening to us. A friend shared how her friend was sittng in a packed subway car, and a daunting person came asking for money from each passenger. This person came and squeezed himself into a tiny space right next to the friend, and put out his hand, demanding money. Instead of recoiling in frustration or fear, she took a brave step – she held his hand, looked him straight in the eyes, and with firmness and kindness, said, “I love you”. He was shocked, and yet, he melted with love and joy, as did the others around them.
When we are feeling lonely and disconnected, no matter where we are in the world, the quickest fix is to share joyful, love-filled moments, even with total strangers. In the train, airport, grocery store, office – each moment is ripe with opportunity to make a connection with another person. Acts of kindness, sharing a gift with a new friend, or even a joke – each brief exchange of love makes each part of the day more special, exciting and meaningful.
Perhaps another form of love is that which transcends human love – it is the deep-found respect for all beings, an understanding of the sacredness in even the tiniest form of life. A friend shared how he mindfully observed two large bees that were stuck in an AC vent in his apartment - they were buzzing around, making many attempts of finding an exit for their survival. He patiently waited for over twenty minutes to help the bees out, despite his own slight fear of bees. They finally made it out with his help, and he had a private moment of rejoicing their flight to freedom.
As I sat in the room, a thought came to me - we are each honeybees, being fed and loved in these beautiful, sacred spaces such as yesterday’s sit - these hives of sweet nectar and nourishment. It is our job to go out into the world, pollinating each person, each being, with love, compassion, joy and kindness – sharing one micro-moment of love, at a time. When we share these micro-moments of love, we are making our own lives richer, longer, healthier and happier - and do the same for others, creating ripples of bah wherever we go :)
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
By Elizabeth Lesser, Co-Founder of The Omega Institute
I will be speaking on Thursday in Newtown, Connecticut. I was invited by the Sandy Hook Promise, a now-nationwide group founded by Newtown friends and neighbors to heal and to be part of a conversation about violence in America. I’ll be speaking with my friend Rev. Ed Bacon. Ed and I have hosted numerous shows together on Oprah Radio; this time we’ll be speaking and leading a conversation we’re calling “Finding Your Invincible Summer.” We chose the title from a line from Albert Camus, who said, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
As fate or synchronicity would have it, I learned recently that I am the match for my sister’s bone marrow transplant. Things are moving faster than we thought they would and the transplant will be happening soon. I am going this week for a day of pre-transplant tests to the hospital where my sister is being treated. So, the day before I speak in Newtown, I will be putting into practice ways of “finding your invincible summer” as I prepare for a journey through winter into summer with my sister.
I will be writing much more about the transplant journey in the weeks to come, but for now, I want to share with you a practice I will be leading during my talk in Newtown. You can use this practice to find within yourself strength, healing, and inner peace for dealing with any challenge you may be facing.
Sit up tall in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Feel the strength in your backbone. When you sit with a straight back a sense of dignity is felt in the body. You can see this posture in the iconography of all of the world’s wisdom traditions: the Greek gods and goddesses; the Chinese goddess Quan Yin; Jesus on the cross, or Mary in her blue veil; the Native American chiefs and the indigenous shamans—in all of these figures, you see a similarity of strength and dignity, and at the same time, openness and softness. As you sit with a straight back, also let your chest open and your shoulders relax, so that you feel what the “great ones” felt: the sweet spot between strength and softness.
Where strength and softness meet is where we find our invincible summer. If we are too hard—if we keep ourselves too protected from the pain of life—we become brittle and can break. If we are too soft, too sensitive, we can let so much in that we are overtaken by fear and heartache, and we lose our faith, we lose our way. This is why the practice of sitting still with what the Zen tradition calls “strong back/soft front” is so helpful. We don’t have to turn to the words of others; we don’t have to belong to a religion; we don’t have to go to a workshop. We carry within our own bodies a compass that leads to the invincible summer.
I will be leaning on this practice while I donate my marrow to my sister; while I witness her struggle; while I pray for her openness to receive new cells, and her strength to withstand the treatment. I will try to offer this same kind of strength and faith to the families in Newtown. And I will feel all of you doing the same on the roads you must travel in your own lives.
What is this thing called a mother’s love?
By Shirley Moulton - Founder, The ACADEMi of Life, NYC
Several experiences this weekend lead me to reflect deeply on the meaning of motherhood. The first experience was my attendance at a Barack Obama’s initiative to serve brunch to mothers at a homeless shelter in NYC to celebrate Mother’s Day. These mothers were women from all walks of life each mentally challenged and the majority had children. The second experience was seeing two movies; ‘Babies’ and ‘Mother and Child.’
So what did I learn from those experiences? I realized that being a mother is probably one of the most difficult roles a person elects to undertake. I also realized that society does not allow us to be truthful about the awesome responsibility and difficulty of motherhood. The way it’s portrayed in the movies is an experience that is always blissful and peaceful, yet the reality is sometimes very different. I recall a friend telling me that the only way she survived the birth of her son, was to pretend that he was only going to be with her for a short time.
A mother’s love, especially in the formative years, is a selfless unselfish act and is considered the highest kind of love. Most women want kids and are happy with their newborn. Eric Fromm in ‘The Art of Loving’ describes the love of a mother as: ‘A mother's love is bliss, is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.' But as the child grows up and begins to separate from the mother, motherly love becomes difficult because it continues to require unselfishness, the ability to give everything and want nothing in return.
According to Fromm, ‘the real achievement of motherly love lies not in the mother’s love for the small infant, but in her love for the growing child.’ He concludes that ‘a woman can be a truly loving mother only if she can love’ meaning that she is a happy person who loves herself, her family, her husband, other children, strangers and all human beings. Well said Eric!!
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Saturday, January 19, 2013
By Shirley Moulton - Founder, The Academi of Life, NYC
Being Human is Not Enough
As I watched the recent Lance Armstrong interview with Oprah Winfrey, I suddenly realized that I was looking at a person void of emotions, empathy and compassion. A person who had strayed so far from his true nature, his being, his spiritual and emotional self, he was unrecognizable. The man had become a machine.
How does a Human Being get to that place? I think most of us don’t realize that we are called Human Being for a reason. Human + Being = A Whole Person. So many of us live our lives and our values as a Human only.
Being Human means to achieve and acquire. While there is nothing wrong with achieving and acquiring, our focus on developing only the human aspects of our nature results in us becoming machine-like, devoid of any emotions.
Our Being nature cannot be ignored. It is our spiritual, emotional, compassionate and empathetic side, which has to be developed and incorporated in our lives. Without which we truly cannot successfully execute this life. Self-Mastery is finding the balance between Human and Being … and Self-Mastery = Happiness.
Being Human is never enough. It’s not enough to make us truly content and happy in our lives. A happy life belongs to the person who achieves the correct balance between Human + Being…a true Human Being. Clearly Lance Armstrong has a lot of work to do.