Redemption: What Does It Mean?

re·deem
verb
past tense: redeemed; past participle: redeemed
                           compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something).
  1. “a disappointing debate redeemed only by an outstanding speech”
    2. gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment.
    “his best suit had been redeemed from the pawnbrokers”

redeemedThis week is holy for so many in this country – Passover at the start, Easter at the end. And all of us are talking about being redeemed.

Isn’t that a wonder, we are different religions with stories so bogged in detail, and yet we are focusing on this concept of redemption. Of rising up from the dust, of second chances. 

I wonder about this theme of being in such dire straits, we all needed someone holy to take us out of bondage. For Christians, it’s the bondage of sin; for Jews, it’s the bondage of slavery. For some it resides internally; for others it’s put upon us by others.

I don’t care the reason – we feel the need in our cultures to believe that we need redeeming, and that it takes someone outside of us to make it happen.

Pyramids-01There are so many lessons within Judaism about the slave mentality back in ancient Egypt, and that so many of the Israelites didn’t want to leave. In fact, most didn’t – it was a smallish group of believers who saw the light enough to leave the life they’d known and believe it could get better. I see so many similarities to today.

And in the same way, Christianity teaches that it is through Jesus Christ that Christians may be redeemed. A conduit to God, a salvation. 

Do we truly need to follow doctrine or a leader in order to find ourselves in peace? Do we need the guidance of something larger, something holy, to do right? Do we still fall under the spell of enslavement in modern times, in so many ways (to smart phone, to schedule, to wanting to be liked…)?

bright_golden_light_meditation_wu7jI won’t argue with the concept of adding holiness to ordinary days. And I won’t look askance at those who seek inspiration in the mundane world. Both are lofty goals, both hard to stick to in modern times.

I’ve been thinking about this concept of redemption all week, as it excites me when our holiday themes and times align. Every year for my entire life, I read in the Passover story about how we as a people were redeemed. And it’s a word that doesn’t resonate me in this context, so I wonder about that line.

partingredsea09We were led out of Egypt through a harrowing journey in the desert until we crossed the uncrossable sea by fate of a miracle and then the sea swallowed up our oppressors and we danced on dry land on the other side, so grateful for our freedom.

It’s a good story.

So who leads us out of danger every single day? Do we still believe we are in charge? Are we blindly walking forward, thinking we have it all under control, shouldering the burdens and the joys all alone?

youre-a-miracleThis life is truly one big miracle. The fact that we ever came into being, that we remain standing, that we get to start over again and again. 

These small truths are wonders that we truly had no part in making happen or continuing on a day-to-day basis. So go ahead today and celebrate. Celebrate the freedom of the Passover story and the new life of the Easter story.

Understand that the ability to stand upright and to think and to feel and to have our hearts broken and to fall in love, that is all miraculous, holy, a wonder. Only then will we begin the path to redemption.

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Managing vs. Leading

leadership-training-300x157How do you create corporate culture? It’s in the fabric of the business and if you’re an entrepreneur who let loose a great idea and poured in some great talent, chances are the corporate culture is an after-thought.

But the secret to great growth is thoughtfully developing corporate culture and finding the right people who fit within it.

That’s something I’m working on right now with my business, Your People LLC, a public relations agency in metro Detroit. Until recently, I’ve done a mediocre job of hiring because I wasn’t really sure what the personality and tenor of my company was – I only knew that I needed help to get all the great work done.

So now, I’m in the lucky position of putting some thought and sweat into this idea of corporate culture. It feels funny to say it comes from me, but hey, if I started the company and I own the company and it’s my heart on the line, then that makes perfect sense.

And herein lies the first obstacle: how do we fit my vision and passion and purpose into a larger box, one that all people can access? Says my wise friend, Tim Ruggles, it comes down to whether I’m managing or leading.

Leading allows others to step in and shine, to run with their talents and instincts, to create something beautiful. Managing is telling others what to do, when. And I can honestly say, I’d rather do the former than the latter.

Of course, all the great articles on this topic say you can’t do one or the other; you must do both. It’s that combination, knowing when, that determines outcomes.

core-values-banksThe question is, when do we step in and manage, and when do we step back and lead?

Here’s a great definition by Erika Andersen in a Forbes article:

“Leading is more about who you are as a person; people want leaders who feel ‘followable.’  We’ve found that translates into six attributes: Far-sighted, Passionate, Courageous, Wise, Generous and Trustworthy.”

Management is more of a craft: it’s primarily skill-based, like cooking or carpentry.” Both, she says, need to be demonstrated on a daily basis.

It’s so funny how we think we can do a job that is divorced from who we are in our personal lives. Hooey. We live in an era when who we are and what we do must seamlessly intersect, must inform one another, must work together.

leaders-vs-managers-200x197After all, entrepreneurs like me started our businesses because we had a passion we couldn’t help but share with the world, a hunch that there was a different – better – way of doing things, and so we just dove in. If I park myself at the door to my office, I’ll never succeed to the level I really want to.

So today, I’m focusing on knowing myself better, because out of that will come the necessary knowledge of when to lead, when to manage, and when to sit back and enjoy the fruits of all of our labors.

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Conversations About Freedom & Slavery

For the last two nights, we’ve sat around a finely laid table, discussing issues of freedom and slavery. Every year, Jews are instructed to retell the Passover story, the Exodus from Egypt, the exit from enslavement to freedom. And every year, we are instructed to feel as though we ourselves had been enslaved, and we ourselves had become free.

My kids are old enough now to have deeper conversations – though we still jump around the room like frogs, in memory of the Plagues. But this year, we talked about how we enslave ourselves today (worrying about what others think, women and body image, being a slave to extracurricular activities) and how we are free.

We talked about whether we mean it when we say, let all who are hungry come and eat. And we talked about how poverty comes in many forms, not just the literal one, but in the poverty of spirit and of emotion, the kid at school who just wants acceptance, the kid at school who just wants friends.

For many, this holiday is its own form of enslavement: you can’t eat a million things, you have to scrub your house to the point of gleaming to ensure that not even a crumb of leavened anything remains. That is an aspect I tried to let go but somehow, the mania of Passover caught me in its grip regardless.

For two days, and several days prior, we did little else but cook and grocery-shop and look at the materials to make sure it would be a lively discussion. And then we sat at the table until late both nights, talking and connecting and eating way too much.

It’s no wonder I am exhausted today. It’s just a holiday but it’s no holiday – the intensity of emotion and of thought take a lot out of you – at least out of me.

Perhaps it’s that I’m getting older and the mantle of responsibility for creating an inspiring observance falls on me. I’m no longer the frolicking kid strategizing with my cousins on how to steal the Afikoman and how to negotiate its return to end the very-long dinner.

Now, I’m the grown-up, leading my people out of slavery, opening their minds to a new possibility of life in a free land, of choice, of free movement, of thought. It’s a heavy mantle, but a worthy one.

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The Circle of Life – Like the Lion King Song

Just like the new generations of lions assume leadership in the favorite Disney movie, I'm assuming the mantle in my family. Not sure I want it. I miss my grandparents. But that's the circle of life.

Just like the new generations of lions assume leadership in the favorite Disney movie, I’m assuming the mantle in my family. Not sure I want it. I miss my grandparents. But that’s the circle of life.

I sat on the brick hedge in the yard, warm winds swirling under a gray spring sky, and wept. It has been so many years since I sat in my grandparents’ living room, around their long majestic table, my grandfather’s jolly smile and big belly presiding over the Passover Seder.

AFIKOMAN-14-blue-displayedGrandma was in the kitchen, bustling among the chicken soup pots and gefilte fish platters, scooping her homemade chopped liver into a china bowl and arranging the salads on glass plates with the finely chopped hard-boiled egg on top that was my grandfather’s signature.

We kids would commiserate under the table when we were very young, plotting and strategizing about how to steal the Afikoman, or middle matzah, the “dessert” of the festive meal, from between the pillows underneath our grandfather. He humored our first few attempts, catching us just as we tried to grasp the napkin-wrapped matzah, but eventually he let us steal it, pretending not to notice.

My male cousins were always the ones who somehow got the line to read aloud that mentioned a woman’s breasts. (Those translations really go for the literal.) Giggling spread like wildfire around the table and whichever boy had to say the offending anatomical word turned shades of pink and red.

grandfather and grandson

grandfather and grandson

We sang the few verses of Dayenu that we knew and at some point, my grandfather or my grandmother would start to laugh, triggering laughter in the other one, tears streaming down their faces, as they laughed in unison, one of the traits of their long marriage.

That’s what Passover always meant to me. 

Yesterday, I was remembering it all, and missing my grandparents so much. Grandma just passed six months ago, making this the first holiday without her. It’s an aching hole in my heart and soul.

Grandpa has been gone for nearly 13 years, but I can still feel the warmth of his soft hands and the happiness of his spirit.

Passover-GreetingSo I’m trying to find my own meaning in Passover, as we rise to the leadership generation, guiding the younger ones. Holidays were always about the cousins coming together and family all around. The meaning and observance were secondary; the people, primary.

This year, we won’t be with family because we want the meaning. But I think that was a mistake. I believe I can marry the two and have special memory-making rituals alongside the rump and ruckus of children playing and enjoying their cousins and family.

So next year, that’s the plan. This year will be nuclear family and a night of friends and then we’ll pack everything away until next year – except before we bring out the boxes, we’ll plan a bit so that all areas of the soul are touched by the beauty of ancestry, the richness of tradition.

On Passover, we ask, why is this night different from all other nights? We are supposed to feel as if we are exiting Egypt, leaving oppression and slavery. We are directed to sit around a table and discuss how the stories in the Haggadah are meaningful to us today.

I’m going to start with, this night is different because we take time and slow down, to be together, to recognize our special traditions, to shine a spotlight on generations that have come before us and handed us a legacy fraught with story and rich with lessons.

This night is different because we make it so. Not because we’ve slaved (pun intended) for days or weeks to get it all kosher. It’s different because we allow ourselves to be different.

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Filling a Hole in my Heart

e-giftcard-passover-01All the years of my life, until my grandmother started her decline in the last two years of her life, carefully chosen cards arrived for me at every holiday. The Jewish ones,  yes, and the secular ones – Valentine’s as much as Hanukkah, Halloween and Rosh Hashanah, Passover and Mother’s Day. 

Grandma Sheila remembered every moment, every anniversary, every emotion, and documented our connection with a card she read in its entirety in the Hallmark store, and then wrote in her glorious script, My Dearest Lynne, Love Grandma Sheila.

Over the years, the signatures changed – back when Grandpa Artie was alive and I was a child, the signature was G&G, meaning Grandma and Grandpa, which was our shorthand when writing letters from camp, so we didn’t have to spell it all out. 

Me holding Asher with Gigi looking on, approx. 12 years ago

Me holding Asher with Gigi looking on, approx. 12 years ago

And when the great-grandchildren started arriving, she became Gigi, for great-grandmother. 

I’m sure I didn’t appreciate fully how much love went into the selection and sending of these cards. I’ve saved some and tossed others. There is a file in my basement of cards from my grandmother.

And certainly there has been a tiny tear in the celebration of these moments in recent years, as she has not been able to mark the momentousness of it all with me.

our lovely Judy

our lovely Judy

Today, as I tore open a card that arrived from Oceanside, N.Y., atop a pile of cards from the same address, I realized that my grandmother has remained in my life in another person. Judy. Lovely Judy, the nanny who came to us when Shaya was 2 and I was divorcing his father. 

Judy moved in to our lives when we needed her, listening to my emotional ups and downs, caring for my children, guiding us through the moments of our new lives, rebuilding and building anew.

She knew my grandmother. She knew my family. And Judy was with us until we no longer needed her quite as much, and at that moment she moved to New York to live with her sister across from the ocean.

0b8ebf3dab15b71572dd4a7e2d5cc0dcAnd yet, every holiday that approaches is accompanied by cards from Judy, with very similar designations. Today’s wished a Happy Passover, with Dear Lynne & Dan, and Love, Judy, as bookends of celebration.

As I read the card and held the lyrical script in my hand, I realized, my grandmother is still with me. In new form. Grandma Sheila is, yes, with me in so many ways – her spirit resides in my heart and she announces her presence at so many different intervals.

But in the living, in the flesh, I still have Judy. We all do. And what a gift that is.

To have people in our lives who guide us and love us and remember us even as we don’t remember ourselves. I didn’t even stop to wish myself a happy Passover amidst all the tumble of preparations. I’ve been running like mad for the past week to get it all done.

And Judy’s voice, her loving caress, her remembering of all of us as a family filled with love, arrived to remind me to slow down, to savor the moments, and to love fully.

My grandmother used to tell me, you do too much. I waved her off every time as an old lady who just didn’t get it.

Recently, I realized she was 100% right. I have always done too much. And it’s tripped me up in the process.

Judy is there now, to help me get on the straight and narrow. To help us all remain in love, in light, as a family, in the moments that matter. And I am eternally grateful.

This life is only as good as the love within it.

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Passover Prep Doesn’t Have to be Stressful…

Alaska fod Alaska TS 038.jpgTwo days and counting…

Passover is one of those holidays that, regardless of how religious you are (or aren’t), stress is inherently built in. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone through the strictures of strict observance for Passover and still, I feel the stress in my bones.

Which is why I went to yoga yesterday and today. And woke up early on a glorious Saturday to meditate.

Perhaps it’s because of the specifics of the Seder table – the details that go on the Seder plate, the special foods that we make and eat only once a year, the ingredients we are forbidden to include, making us stop to reconsider our recipes.

But I am going out on a limb here to suggest that the stress we feel around this holiday is wholly created by us. It lives inside us, not inside the holiday. We choose to observe however we observe.wall_copy2

We invite the craziness to move in and set up camp and we simply walk around or over or trip on its blankets. We curse its presence and yet we don’t ask it to leave. We accept it without question as if rendered mute in unable to see objectively that we can in fact say no.

homemade-matza-ball-soupI’ve been so laid back about observing this holiday that I pretty much put it out of my mind. Which means that as the week drifted on, I realized how much I had to do – even just to make a pot of matzo ball soup.

And with a full workload, and a desire to make the holiday meaningful, the pressure mounted. And I let it. I let it march right in and point its shaky fingers at me and I bowed my head in shame, accepting the story that I had to feel stress or it wouldn’t be a meaningful holiday.

Hooey.

I want to be done with that and shed it like I’ve shed other stressors over the years that I didn’t have to let in.Java Printing

For some reason, we are raised to believe that we must follow along the dramatic paths that our families or our communities have carved out for us. But just because there’s a path that looks familiar, it doesn’t mean you have to walk it.

Carve your own path...

Carve your own path…

There are other paths. And news flash: before these paths were trod clear so that you wouldn’t get lost in the forest, someone else had to carve them in the first place. Think of yourself as a modern-day forester, identifying trails to keep nature-lovers safe. You create the map. You line the paths with stones.

So what am I going to do? Well, for one, I’m working today to get that workload whittled down to manageable. 

spring-crocusesI plan to walk in the 70-degree sunshine and soak it in. And tomorrow, when it spikes to 75, I’m going to step outside and make sure I take in my full dose of Vitamin D.

My husband has lovingly offered to make the chicken soup. Fair enough. I’ll accept. No martyrs live in my house.

And I’ll order pizza tomorrow night to make it easy and feed the family. And then on Tuesday, before the kids come home from their father’s house, I’ll finish work earlier than usual and make the several haroset recipes that my daughter wants to try and set the table with seder plates and get ready for a night of meaning.

happy-passover-haggadahI won’t worry about what isn’t getting done because that doesn’t solve anything. I’ll be in this moment right now because it’s all I have and I’ll believe that the seder experience will be fine however it unfolds.

Because I know that the memories come from being surrounded by people I love and who love me, and sharing our own perspectives on the traditions of our ancestors. If I don’t have time to really pore through the Haggadahs, I won’t, and I’ll hope that it will be enough to discover together the nuances of the pages.

That has to be enough.

GooglewebThe point of being Jewish- or being Christian or being Hindu or being Indian or American or Swedish – is not to drive ourselves crazy. It’s to add ritual and meaning and beauty to what might otherwise be a very sterile life.

We compartmentalize ourselves and claim certain stories as our own not as a means of imprisoning ourselves but as a way to make meaning out of the mundane. That’s what it’s all about. The rituals illuminate the moments. It’s not a race. It’s a life.

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From the Heart

Unity in the Community Logo2When sharing in life is the mission of an organization, every project and task must come from the heart. When the goal is to make sure that all constituents feel valued and able to contribute to the community, regardless of their personal limitations, then it’s not check-it-off work – it has to come from the heart or it just won’t work.

LSSM logo blueLSSMlogoblueThat’s the focus of one of my favorite clients, Lutheran Social Services of Michigan. Last night I had the gift of attending an event for LSSM, which featured one of their many programs, services for unaccompanied refugee minors.LSSM logo blue

A girl from Congo whose mother was shot in front of her eyes shared her story in lilting English. She’s trying for her high school degree. She’ll be 21 soon. Her life started over because of the goodness of the Lansing LSSM folks.

Pile-of-ShoesWe sat next to a couple who have fostered 21 children on their way from dangerous homelands to reunite with family here in America. They pointed to a pile of shoes representing all the children who have come through their family. Yes, some of them arrived in flip-flops in November. They talked about learning to make pupusas so some food was familiar to these children in a strange land, so far from home.

Sharing in life. Focused on making sure others feel a sense of contribution.

The work we do depends on the perspective we bring to it. Do we love our work or is it drudgery? Are we simply collecting a paycheck? Or are we devoted to making a difference?

Clear-Sense-Of-PurposeI know that in many parts of the world, work is simply a means to survival. If we are lucky enough to choose our work, to reside with disposable income, then shouldn’t we take care to make sure it’s a purpose we believe in? That we do what we do with passion and gusto?

There is no excuse for hating one’s work. Because the feelings of discontent come from within. We can see the world as good and we can see it as bad. It’s our choice. Walk left or walk right.

Of course, first we have to heal the holes in our own hearts. And only then can we march onward with a full heart focused on others. 

Sunrise-at-Carnoustie-gol-006It’s a sunny warm Friday here, and life is good. But isn’t it always good? The sunrise over the golf course across from my house was pink and orange, with light white frost on the undulating hills of green. The house was quiet.

It’s been a week of not meditating first thing in the morning, and staying out late at night for work events. It’s a week that has led me by the nose, rather than me taking charge. As long as I stay connected to source, I will be fine.

sailboat-1But I am surely glad it’s the end of the week and I can work quietly in my lovely home. I am glad I can spend weekend hours getting the garden cleaned up and ready for spring. I am glad that there are waves to time – sometimes swells and gales and sometimes light little flickers, a calm lake in the middle of a hot summer day. A good sailor rides the waves and respects the sea.

If I can say anything, a mantra to march along to, it’s that I’m grateful for every moment. Even the troubling ones, even the ones that go by in a flash.

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Intolerance Comes from Within

woman_reading_book_1346786627“Why are you still reading that book, Mommy?” 

My son’s question was a good one. All I had done was critique and exclaim over this memoir I’m reading. (Remember the blog I wrote about it? It’s really sticking in my craw!)

His question came after I read aloud several paragraphs, the gist of which said this:

* America is “the vast stretch of emptiness” between both coasts which “nurtured nothing but a feeling of being so isolated as to be cut off from the world and its events.”

* Memoir is, I now see, often an amalgamation of true details into one hybrid memory. Case in point, from p. 146: “Inside the cavernous space, beers were being sloshed onto the bar en masse. Chili dogs were sold for a dollar apiece straight from the kitchen window. Cowboys lingered over pool tables in dark corners, and smack in the middle of the room was a polished wooden dance floor, packed with women in tube tops and Daisy Dukes doing something I could only interpret as the hora, while country music played on the loud speaker. As the women dipped and clapped, their glittering crosses jangled distractingly over their tanned chests. I wondered how Christian culture had evolved to allow one to worship Jesus and dress like a stripper at the same time.”

Thou shalt not judge scroll* From the above passage, and throughout this book which I somehow can’t put down, it is abundantly clear that judgment is one universal truth that transcends community or belief. When we are afraid of the unfamiliar, we point a finger at it rather than strive to understand.

* And finally, not all best-selling writers are talented. I mean, really, were all the women in short-shorts? Did all have crosses on necklaces? How did she know they were cowboys – do better at details, please! Belt buckles, boots, hats? A cavernous space – is that the best way to describe a bar? I could go on but I won’t.

Why can’t I put the book down, then? The writing is mediocre at best and the writer is a yearning, displaced, searching young woman who has no clue who she is except that she doesn’t fit anywhere and she is Jewish-Jewish-Jewish and can’t let that go. (Oh, and I am so sick of her identifying her big nose as so very Jewish.)

There is a concept in Hebrew called hillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name. That when God-fearing, God-believing people act in disappointing ways, it’s a desecration of God’s name. And it embarrasses the community they claim as their own.

This woman is flailing in front of the world in the form of her books in what ultimately embarrasses all Jews. She doesn’t think someone with fair hair and blue eyes “looks Jewish.” She sees a mass of rednecks in a mid-American bar as emblematic of Christianity. She tries to transcend the limited, isolated world in which she was raised and become a “wandering Jew,” a “global Jew,” eyes open and heart wide to what she discovers – except she isn’t really.

globepicThe thing about our stories is that we don’t have to carry them around with us. Once a story has been spun, it’s ok to set it down and walk on to the next experience, the next setting, the next revelation.

We do not have to cling to our pasts and our assumptions and our limited views all the live long day. We can, and I believe we should, let it all go. Let. Go.

The true connection is one deep within us all, with what is holy and right and beautiful and peace-promoting. We don’t have to travel the world in search of who we are, and we don’t have to link up with others to define ourselves.

The thing about traveling is that if we truly are open, we begin to see the commonalities between us and everyone else, the fact that everyday life is universal, that all hearts beat, regardless of skin color and worship rituals and family beliefs.

Satmar women

Satmar women

Two books down and this young author still hasn’t learned a thing. Sure, she’s escaped from the confines of the Satmar Hassidim. But she hasn’t escaped the prison that is her perspective.

Because she doesn’t see herself as limited. She’s still pointing the finger, and any time you do that, any time you believe happiness or sadness live outside of you, you’re bound to cycle out of control in

dada-vaswani-web

 negative emotions on and on and on.

I don’t know why I am still reading this book. It’s one of those car-wreck, can’t-look-away times – I’m curious, as to where she ends up. I guess I do care, in my own way. I want to help. I want to elevate. I feel so badly that she thinks she’s fled but she’s still stuck.

I read these passages to my husband last night and he said, “She hasn’t left.” He’s right. You can physically exit a community and think they’re the problem, but if you keep them and their values within you, then no matter where you go, you never leave.

“Happiness, true happiness, is an inner quality. It is a state of mind. If your mind is at peace, you are happy. If your mind is at peace, but you have nothing else, you can be happy. If you have everything the world can give – pleasure, possessions, power – but lack peace of mind, you can never be happy.” ~ Dada Vaswani

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Writing + Yoga in Northern Michigan – Join Me!

Writing_Yoga.v4There is something so sweet about gathering with people to be creative.

Back when I devoted my full-time energies just to writing, I’d invest in a summer writing program somewhere, just me, and the pen, and the paper, and my thoughts flying about like bats against a summer sky.

The summer before I met my first husband, I went to the Iowa Summer Writers Workshop, one of the best in the country, and studied with Michael Carey, a lovely farmer-poet from southern Iowa. I still use his poems about trees to teach writing at the middle-school writing club.

The summer before my first marriage ended, my former husband, our youngest (who was 1) and I trekked to Aspen for Aspen Summer Words, where we gave our marriage one last chance – and I delved into narrative nonfiction with Gary Ferguson. It’s where I met my lovely friend April and where I learned that you can go far, or you can stay home, but your problems come with you wherever you are.

121And so the solution is to dig down deep, connect with your soul, and find that peace that lives within. It’s always there. It’s never found in the running away.

We writers, we reflect and ponder and contemplate and weave words to give name to our feelings. We live through the written word. We make sense of the world, of our experiences in it and with it, by writing.

Yoga + Writing, the perfect combination for retreat (July 18-20, 2014)

Yoga + Writing, the perfect combination for retreat (July 18-20, 2014)

And I’ve found that yoga is a tool that helps me get clear, get to that peace, stop living the angst but rather turn it into art. Back when I was “just a writer,” I dwelled in the story a bit too much. Yoga has helped me get clear and clean out the cobwebs so that I can live happy and harness the details – without letting them take me over – into wonderful stories.

This summer, I’m excited to host a writing + yoga retreat in beautiful northern Michigan, at Shanty Creek Resort, July 18-20, 2014. Want to come?

Register here.

That's me - your writing instructor this summer - join me!

That’s me – your writing instructor this summer – join me!

I’ll be leading the writing workshops, for all genres and all levels, just to immerse with voice and story and connect with your soul. Katherine Austin of Karma Yoga will be teaching daily yoga and meditation. It’s a win-win because the retreat itself costs just $175 a person and the surroundings are sublime.

Katherine Austin, your yoga instructor at our lovely July retreat Up North.

Katherine Austin, your yoga instructor at our lovely July retreat Up North. She blogs at www.karma-yoga.net.

Here’s where you reserve your room at Shanty Creek.

Here’s where you sign up to join our intimate little group for writing and yoga that will change your life.

Join us. Whether you’re new to either writing or yoga or a long-time aficionado, it’s for you. You’ll love it and we will have a wonderful time together. Can’t wait.

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Noah: The Movie & The Legacy

Watch-Noah-OnlineI’m embarrassed to say that after a decade leading a religious lifestyle, I don’t know the Bible stories well at all. So when my eldest son and I saw the new movie, Noahlast night, I kept wondering about the details played out in the script, and how closely they followed the biblical narrative.

Still, the wonderment of the movie was deep indeed.Noah and ark

What fascinated me more than the fantastical effects and wonderful theatrics was the fact that as advanced as we think we are in this 21st century life, we keep revisiting the oldest stories, to find our truths.

It doesn’t surprise me. The illusion of wisdom and control still reigns supreme, as we flounder, in search of meaning and answers. We are all yearning to KNOW, and yet we only know what we know today, which tomorrow is deemed as ancient as the story itself.

Giraffe_Ithala_KZN_South_Africa_Luca_Galuzzi_2004And so it was, to witness the subtle details of a story we all take for granted:

- That God wiped out humanity’s wickedness by a worldwide flood that only a handful of people survived, and two of each animal.

- That a smoky substance subdued the animals into sleep on the long journey, let they rise up and kill each other.

- That the man chosen to orchestrate such a feat, Noah, loomed on the brink of madness. Such a hefty task. The literal weight of the world on his shoulders.

Choose love...

Choose love…

- That the ultimate truth of this story boils down to choosing love or choosing hate, choosing good or choosing bad. One choice entitles us to life, the other to death.

- That what we see in our dreams may be the word of God directly. How often do we pay attention to the messages given expressly to us?

- And that, in the end, the beauty of the rainbow assures us that God will never destroy the world again. His promise to us, his guarantee of life eternal in the beauty of the colors.

Whether you believe or not, such a story is a huge undertaking. And of course the nuances of an evil character, Cain’s descendant, insisting that man’s job is to dominate over all creation, and that we gain strength from conquering, eating, killing other creatures.

So Noah was a vegetarian, with respect for all life. So many messages, so many items to ponder.

light-vs-darkThe other day I wrote about how little we read and watch of the positive. How dark and scary and dismal and miserable most stories are – perhaps to shed ourselves of the dark side, to make room for the light.

But then the rest of us carry the darkness within us, a heavy gift, one we wouldn’t have asked for.

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Except there aren’t many options of good stories out there.

And yet there is goodness all around, ours for the choosing, if we ca

n see it. Lightness, happiness, joy, connection, community. All there for the taking.

Can you see them? Can you pave your paths with light? Can you walk around the dark, leaving it in the crevices for those who choose to dwell there?

We can see the story of Noah as a story of death and destruction and darkness and fear, all of which were in the movie. A story of fallen angels and loneliness.

Or we can see it as a story of redemption, of goodness everlasting, of partnership with Creation and Creator, of life eternal, of hope.

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