Blog Archives

Being Controlled by Being ‘In Control’

I am a person who likes to have a plan. I like efficiency and cleanliness. “A place for everything, and everything in its place”, as they say. I usually think that having everything clean, organized, and well planned will make me feel “in control”, and therefore safe and happy… but in reality, it DOESN’T. In reality, I often become uptight about “the plan” and end up becoming very upset if (and when) things don’t work out exactly as I think they should. When my husband leaves a dirty dish in the office, it is a travesty. When I am running late for a casual lunch with a friend, the world is surely about to end.

Today while taking a walk, I was planning out how when I got home, first I would clean the dishes while Brian watched the baby, then make a specific dinner, and so on. But I suddenly realized that this kind of thinking (which I often do) doesn’t add to my happiness, or even make things happen more efficiently. In fact, this kind of thinking just makes me rigid and less able to handle change. I squeeze myself around the thoughts of “it NEEDS to be this way” and I become a prisoner. So I said to myself: “I release you”. And it felt pretty good. In that moment, I was freeing myself from the NEED to know how the rest of my day would turn out. I was not giving up control– I was refusing to BE controlled by my thoughts!

Of course, this is something that you need to do repeatedly, in every new moment, for it to make any real difference at all. So I kept saying it all evening: “I release you!”, while unclenching myself from whatever new thought I had decided was important in that moment. And remarkably, the dishes still got washed, dinner still got made, the baby still got fed + washed + put to bed. Everything that needed to happen happened the way it needed to happen. I did not have to plan the sequence out beforehand. I did not have to be in control of the details. Certain things happened that I would have normally interpreted as happening “wrong”, but I did not mind– I was having an amazing time!

I am still a person who likes cleanliness, and efficiency, and plans. I am still a person who writes lists that reference my OTHER lists. But in this moment, I am realizing more deeply that I can DO all of that with joy instead of rigidity!

Gauguin painting attack brings back memories

I came across this article about a woman attacking a painting by Paul Gauguin at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., while screaming “THIS IS EEEEVIL!” The woman was clearly delusional, as she was also claiming to be in the CIA and have a radio in her head.

My first thought was that if my artwork was violently attacked by schizophrenics, I would feel flattered. Then I remembered that something like this actually happened to me once. Not by schizophrenics, but by a wrathful ex-lover who burned a painting of mine and left a fragment of it in my mailbox. The feelings I had at the time were mixed: Sadness that this person was trying to hurt me, but also excitement about the new experience of something I created suddenly not existing anymore. I held the fragment in my hand and knew that what I had to do was give it new life– let it be reborn after being burned, like a phoenix rising up from the ashes.

I glued it onto a new canvas and turned it into the painting below, depicting the tower of Babel. I picked the “Babel” theme, alluding to miscommunication + humans trying to connect but just being a little off so they can’t understand each other.

Now that I’m married and have a baby attached to me 24/7, the drama in my life is of a much different flavor. I sometimes miss the freedom I had as a wandering young traveler, but right now I am reminded of the sorts of craziness that go along with it and appreciating where I am now.

“Eco Kosher” Artwork

The idea of “eco kosher” emerged within Jewish Renewal circles, inspired by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. People have begun to ask questions like “Is it kosher to eat something that uses tons of non-renewable resources in packaging + shipping?” or “Is it kosher to use plastic plates that end up in landfills?”. Supporters of the idea of eco-kashrut realize that instead of taking G-d’s gifts for granted, we can live more sustainable lives and be in sync with nature.

I had been incorporating this idea into many aspects of my life beyond eating, and eventually realized that it also needed to merge with my artwork. I have begun using only recycled materials, to create “eco-kosher artwork”. Combining elements from embroidery, painting, quilting, and collage, I’m now creating unique pieces of art that invoke a feeling of divine energy and sacredness. For me, creating artwork is an intensely meditative and spiritual experience, and this feeling is only heightened for me now that I know my artwork is helping instead of harming the planet.

Conscious Parenting

Judging requires effort.  Anger requires effort.  Believing and reacting to thoughts about what “should be happening” requires effort.  Believing and reacting to thoughts like “this is more than I can do” or “people are asking too much of me” requires effort.  These are the things that are actually draining, not what is happening in the moment.

If people imagine that they are needed to do more than they think they are physically able to do, this can be a very stressful thought.  But often what is actually happening in those moments is that they are either not realizing what their capabilities are, or they are misinterpreting what is actually needed in that situation.

I experienced this early on when my infant daughter would cry, I would put out a lot more energy than was necessary as I tried to “fix the problem”, and would feel exhausted and nervous about not being able to calm her.  Then my husband had the insight that all the baby ACTUALLY needed in that moment was for me to be present, and hold her while looking at her with love and acceptance.  And it was true.  I realized that I obviously couldn’t calm her while believing the stressful thought that I HAD TO calm her.  Without that thought, what naturally happened was just experiencing being true love, and this is what is actually needed when there is no obvious physical need.  Everything else requires effort and becomes draining.

Being infinite love requires no effort.  It is not training yourself to have “positive thinking”.  It is what happens before thinking begins.  It is surrendering and letting everything happen through you instead of being done by you.

I used to think that this experience of complete surrender into infinite love and consciousness was something random, ephemeral, and sporadic.  But I have learned that consciousness is actually a muscle that can be exercised (by doing body-awareness and thought-questioning exercises, or by praying in a way that invokes real surrender instead of just feeling safe).

In any moment, you can choose to fully embrace believing your thoughts, or choose to fully embrace consciousness/G-d/surrendering.  I think this is what that “Jesus” guy was talking about when he said to give up all possessions and follow him (I like the idea of reclaiming Jesus as a cool Jewish dude, instead of thinking of him with the mythology/concepts that Christians came up with)… Anyway, I don’t think he was talking about morals or afterlife; I think he was talking about having freedom from suffering NOW.  I think he was talking about giving up all of your baggage (in every moment that you remember that you can) and embracing what is happening in THIS moment instead of believing that you know better than the universe what SHOULD be happening in this moment.  Such sweet bliss is available in every moment, but we often pick “being right” over it.

Mother Poetry and the Jewish “Divine Feminine”

There are many reasons that I love Rachel Barenblat.  I have been following her beautiful Torah commentary and poetry on The Velveteen Rabbi for years, and was delighted when she became pregnant at the same time that I did because her poetry began to follow the amazing journey of pregnancy and motherhood as I was having similar experiences.

I co-lead a workshop recently with Rachel Galper, about connecting with the ”Divine Feminine” (in a Jewish context) through art and storytelling.  My experience of divinity as female is directly linked to the intensity of my body bearing, birthing, and nourishing a child.  The following poem by Rachel Barenblat really captures this experience.  The poem is based on Psalm 126 and on her experiences of her first year as a mother:

ONE YEAR

A psalm of ascent

When the doctor brought you

through my narrow places

I was as in a dream: tucked behind

my closed eyes, chanting silently

we are opening up in sweet surrender.

The night before we left the hospital

I wept: didn’t they know

I had no idea what to do with you?

Even newborn-sized clothes

loomed around you, vast and ill-fitting.

I couldn’t convince you to latch

without a nurse there to reposition.

But we got into the car, the old world

made terrifying and new, and

in time I learned your language.

I had my own narrow places ahead,

the valley of the postpartum shadow.

Nights when I would hand you over,

mutely grateful to anyone willing

to rock you down, to suffer your cries…

But those who sow in tears

will reap in joy, and you

are the joy I never knew I didn’t have.

I have paced these long hours

bearing a baby on my shoulder

and now I am home in rejoicing,

bearing you, my own harvest.

http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/mother-poems

 

Art-time for me, playtime for her!

I’m looking forward to when my daughter is old enough to paint alongside me instead of try to eat the brushes! In the meantime, I create things out of non-toxic substances that she can grab at while I use them. Today, I started working on a fabric collage of POMEGRANATES (Recently, I have been obsessed with pomegranates. Perhaps because spring is coming, and pomegranates are a symbol of swelling, bursting fertility)! Ariana “helped” me put together the artwork, by sitting on top of the canvas, then snatching up the fabric pieces and hiding them under the rug!