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Archive for the ‘Storytelling’ Category

Tiny Steps

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

On a recent trip to Florida, I met up with my friend, Evonn. We walked around the beautiful Morikami Japanese Gardens. As we walked around the gardens, Evonn shared a story about slowing down. Evonn was helping her grandchildren get ready for school and wanted to be sure they caught their school bus on time. Her five year old grandson, Charlie, was in no rush as he wandered around the house at his own pace. Evonn was making sure his socks and shoes were on as they walked to the front door. Charlie came to a stop. He looked up at Evonn and said, “Tiny steps.” The pace slowed down and Evonn and Charlie walked to the door taking tiny steps. It was a lesson in being present and slowing down. In a time when everyone seems to be rushing around, a five year old child reminds us to stop and pay attention. Take tiny steps. Be present. Slow down. Be.

Evonn shared with Charlie over the holidays that she liked his “tiny steps.” Charlie responded, “Oh, I don’t do tiny steps anymore.” He had moved on into a new present movement. As my friend Evonn shared, “May we stay in the moment and move right on.”

We can learn a lot from taking tiny steps. And we can learn even more from a five year old.

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Losing My Voice and Choosing Quiet

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

I spent last week at home with a fever and sore throat. This meant I slept through most of the early part of the week. I had strange dreams and memories come and go. I had to rest. And be quiet. And rest some more. By mid-week, my fever broke and I lost my voice. I couldn’t speak. Everything felt strained. As my quietness deepened, I took an inventory of all the times I lost my voice.

When did my voice become a whisper?

What silences me?

Where is my voice in the world?

I had a lot of time to meditate. I took time to notice the places of not being heard. I listened for what rises up within me from silence.

Daily silent meditation brought a few insights:

I am curious about when my voice becomes a shout and when it is a voice of clarity.

I am still learning to sift through the noise and listen to the vibration of sounds.

I am open to hearing my own voice – quiet, clear, and full of love and peace.

I am attuned to moments when I choose quiet and when I feel silenced.

Now, more questions arise:

When do I lose my voice?

And what brings it back?

Are the whispers of my heart ready to be heard?

Maybe we all need to lose our voice to truly discover what need to be voiced.


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“Hey Irish”

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

My father-in-law, Don, had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to laugh. He would come up with funny names and phrases. I was no exception. My nickname from Don when he was calling me was, “Hey Irish.”

Don was an incredible photographer. He not only took wonderful pictures, but also kept detailed notes on the back of them. He always tracked who, where, and when the photos were taken. He had an amazing eye for taking pictures. Don had been a part-time wedding and newspaper photographer when his children were growing up.

In the late 90’s, Don realized how much of an interest I had in photography and he offered some advice on how to frame photos using various viewpoints. He taught me how to see with a new lens. It’s not easy – seeing with a new lens. He liked to show me how to breakdown the parts of a picture: the foreground, the main view and the background. See the whole thing. When he showed me how to capture an image or a person, he would often advise me to see the whole picture – take in the whole scene. Don wanted me to see more than the photograph I wanted to take. Rather, his advice was often about opening myself up to the larger view, the larger lens, and the larger frame.

I have taken many photos for the past 20 years with new eyes thanks to my father-in-law’s wisdom of seeing through new eyes and a new lens. And now when I photograph a moment using his technique of viewing, framing, and capturing, I always think of him. He was a good teacher.

I don’t think I ever got the chance to say thank you. Don, thank you – I see the world with a bigger lens because of you.
Love, Irish

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Have You Checked the Expiration Date Lately?

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

I found a Metrocard in my wallet last week and swiped it to see how much money was on it. The machine read, “Please see an attendant.” I walked over and asked the MTA attendant if she could check how much was on my card. After she swiped it and checked her computer she said, “Ma’am, this was a 30 day unlimited card that expired in March.” I thanked the lady and walked away with my expired card. After discarding it in the recycling bin, I realized that I had been carrying around an expired card for over five months.

Later, I decided to look through the rest of my wallet for other expired or outdated cards. As I finished reorganizing my wallet, I decided to check what else in my house had expired and could be thrown out. As I sat down feeling proud of getting rid of unnecessary items, I decided to check inside and see if anything within could be discarded. What else has expired in my life? Were there any thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that have expired that I am still carrying around? Could I let go of my disappointment and frustration? Am I carrying around anger that expired last month?

I invite you to check in and see if there is anything you are carrying (inside and out) that has expired. What has expired that is still living inside you?

Start with today. What are you still carrying around that you are willing to let go?

It’s time for a new 30-day pass.

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Leaving the Station

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Next stop – the Bronx. I often wait a long time at the Pelham Bay station for my train to leave the station. How long have I sat scrolling social media or reading or meditating or listening to a Podcast while waiting to leave the station? Over the years, I have left many stations behind – some that I have not returned to in years and some ever again. Leaving the station of people and places often means letting go and moving on.

Leaving and arriving are daily practices. It’s when I am stuck in the station that negative emotions arise. Leaving the station can mean a good-bye, a travel away, a travel towards, a moving on, a welcoming, a grieving, a homecoming, a shift in perspective. I have learned that we all leave the station at some point and each time is different. What are we really leaving?

Everything changes. And in the end, I have learned that everyone leaves in some form. It’s the inhale and exhale of life. Breathing in and breathing out. We meet each other in the in-between breath.

We all leave the station at our own pace. Welcome the leaving.

Soon the conductor will shout, “Leaving the station.”

Next stop…

This is dedicated to my mom who passed away 17 years ago. Glad we had time together to share the in-between breath.

This essay was inspired from the Prompt a Day Program with Cynthia Morris.

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Watching Over Everything

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

The birds – they see everything. They fly overhead seeing everything. The birds have a different view.

View. The view of the heart. Does that not watch over everything too? How do we watch over? With love? With judgment? With peace? With an open heart?

Is there a being of love watching over everything? Perhaps this is my faith calling me back. Maybe I am ready, listening, and remembering to return.

Returning to light and darkness. Day and night. Doesn’t that watch over us too?

The night sky – looking up – watching over everything through the stars. The lights blinking, glowing, soaring through the sky. What do the stars see through their lens of light?

The light passes. The darkness opens me up to more light. Here I am shining. Here we are shining.

I have learned how much is watching over me. In the end, it is love, always love, watching over me. Here I AM: SKY, SPIRIT, STARS, LOVE watching….

Watching over everything.

This essay was inspired from the Prompt a Day Program with Cynthia Morris.

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From One Ember – Fire

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

nofire2016It’s a Thursday night in the Catskills. Almost 400 people have traveled from around the world for a summer camp for adults, known as Camp Good Life Project (Camp GLP). The evening gathering includes an all camp bonfire, full of s’mores and singing. While most of the campers are in a team-building activity, I am in my room sorting stuff, calling home, and getting my instruments ready. I bring my djembe from home in the hopes of playing at the sing-a-long.

I walk to the area where the campfire will be as it is right near my room. A small group of folks have gathered and are trying to keep the fire lit. It had rained earlier in the day and the ground is wet. Most of the flames are now just smoke. The camp staff who lit the fire have left along with all the supplies.

The small group scrambles to get the fire lit before the massive group of campers come to gather. I bend down and hold out my hands to hold space. Campfire and all, it is still a fire. It’s sacred. The bonfire is the big kickoff for the weekend. With hands open, I send my blessings to the fire. I look to my left and a woman is bent down blowing into the open space. She starts moving sticks and creating an opening for the fire to catch. Other folks are frantically looking for a lighter, matches, anything to help keep the small flame going. There is a sense of nervousness that the fire will go out. Some suggest we use lighter fluid. A few of us look up and ask that we wait to see if we can get it going by using nature, our intention, and the wood in front of us.

Smoke – more smoke. The fire is slowly going down and what seems to be a small ember is left. Again, the offer to get lighter fluid is suggested. I look now to see my new friend Pam circling around the fire and we both agree that we ought to wait and see if we can get it going ourselves. We realize we have some paper from the s’mores to use that to help get the fire going. I start a small low chant to bless the fire and I realize more people are circling around us.

Ember – one ember. Just as it seems the fire will be out altogether, there is one spark of light. Someone calls out in the dark that there is one ember still going. A few folks blow on the ember and we open the logs a little to give it more air. The ember takes and more glow begins to light up our campfire.

Fire – we have fire. The fire grows up and out and we begin to clap and hug and laugh. Most of the campers hadn’t realized the effort to get the fire going. All the fire starters gather closer to the flame knowing it was just smoke with one small ember.

Love – we are love. It took many hands. It took patience. It took our great will to not give into the easy solution (luckily, there was no lighter fluid nearby) and to just BE with the fire. It took time for everyone gathered to realize this was more than a camp fire – this was a sacred fire. And oh, how the fire danced for us.

The lessons of the fire are always right in front of us. Just when you think everything is at its most darkest, there is always an ember of light. The fire waits for us. Our breath holds great power. Lean on one another and bear witness. From nothing is everything. From one ember – fire.

Dedicated to Pamela Slim who shared in the sacred fire ceremony. Fuego.


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Am I Brave Enough to Be Me?

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

I am sitting on a cabin step in upstate New York with a woman from Vermont who I met less than 48 hours ago. We are both participants in the Camp Good Life Project (Camp GLP). It’s my third year at this summer camp for creative souls, entrepreneurs, and change-makers. It’s a weekend of wisdom, deep learning, creating, playing (color wars + dance parties), meditation, yoga classes, and an outrageous talent show. More than that, it’s a weekend of deep connections, soulful humanness, and joyful play.

As we sit eating our veggie pizza, we laugh about our experiences from the weekend. We talk about how we have witnessed being vulnerable, feeling safe, being connected to our core values, playing our hearts out, and experiencing deep love without judgment. When asked what her biggest lesson of the weekend has been, she looks me in the eye and says she is leaving with the question, “Am I brave enough to be me?” I exhale. My eyes fill with tears. Her eyes fill with tears. We just sit together and listen to the question without rushing to any outcome or answer.

BeBraveThe question of being brave enough to be me has been part of my meditation since leaving camp. Am I brave enough to be me? For three days at camp, the answer was a resounding yes. I felt brave enough to hug friends and strangers, to (belly) laugh, to cry with people I met for the first time, to dance and sing, to drum publicly at a bonfire, to make my own mala (prayer beads), to nap under a tree, to take long quiet walks, to watch birds and share the joy of it with campers, to listen and bear witness to stories about longing or grief or dreams, and to share my deep passions and fears.

The world has too much fear spreading and camp is a reminder that something else works – bravery. The kind of bravery that asks people to be themselves, to show up fully, and to tune into their heart and live from that place.

It takes great bravery to:

What all of these (and the many more) moments of bravery exemplified is the ability to fully show up – as is – just the way we are. It was the experience of being able to laugh and cry in the exact same breath. We can be brave and doing it afraid in the exact same moment. And we can do it together. This is what it means to connect deeply, live soulfully, and play joyfully.

Am I brave enough to be me? I take another exhale. I share with my new friend, “I needed a detox from snarkiness and cynicism.” It’s easy to be a critic; the real work is showing up and doing it afraid. Brave enough to me means fully living my values of generosity, connection, vulnerability, creativity, and spirituality.

And you? What comes up when you hear the question: Am I brave enough to be me?

This is dedicated to Jonathan and Stephanie Fields, the Camp GLP team and volunteers, all the campers and everyone living bravely.

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May I Have This Dance?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

“You didn’t come all this way to sit on a couch, did you?” That was my pick up line at a dance in 1994. It was awkward and funny and eventually I danced with the woman who became my spouse.

It was almost 22 years ago that I went to a dance by myself to be part of the L.G.B.T. community, to meet new friends, and to dance. I remember feeling scared to go. It took every ounce of courage to get on the subway from the Bronx and travel to Webster Hall in Manhattan for a big dancing night. I didn’t know a soul there. I walked into the room wide-eyed and curious and anxious. I was searching for something I didn’t even know I was seeking – my inner freedom. The freedom to be myself, fully. The freedom to be with a woman. The freedom to love – all of me. The freedom to release worry of what “others” might think.

That night in Webster Hall gave me more than a life partner. It gave me my life back. A life that was no longer ashamed to be who I am in the world. A life where I was no longer inhibited by internal or external homophobia. A life where I was no longer inhibited by my body image.

Dance halls and clubs are where so many in the L.G.B.T. community gather for a sense of belonging, connection, and hope. Dance floors are places of refuge. In Buddhist terms, clubs and dance floors are often our sangha. It’s our community. It’s a place we can express ourselves, release inhibition, and be completely free – arms in the air (like we just don’t care).

The tragedy in Orlando was an attack on more than the L.G.B.T. community. It was an attack on expression and freedom. It opened up old shame wounds of our society about integration, diversity, sexuality, and our beliefs on how we define love. In many ways, it was an attack on love itself.

The mass shooting could have targeted any community and many have experienced this trauma before in other places and with other victims: movie theaters, schools, politicians, children, churches, and L.G.B.T. communities.

Our L.G.B.T. community has been vulnerable to hate, to slurs, to violence, to whispers, to looks, to shame, and more. Anyone who has ever come out knows these experiences deep in their cells. It’s the one where someone in our life feels disappointed, scared, angry and ashamed about who we are and who we love. At times, it triggers our own questioning of our identity and we begin to question — is this the life I want?

Then, on a random Saturday night, you ask someone to dance. And you dance and dance and dance.

And then you know, this sangha, this dance hall/club refuge is the very freedom that lives inside of you waiting to be expressed in the world.

Please remember – you are not alone. We are in this together.

Cry. Hug. Hold Hands. Sing. Be Seen. Be Heard. Love More. Dance. Keep Dancing.

Allow grief to surface. Reach out. And when you are ready, please keep dancing.

We Are Orlando.

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Book Review: Tribe – On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

“In keeping with something called self-determination theory, which holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others.” ― Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

tribeIn his new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger suggests that we miss the fraternity that thousands of years of tribal life have programmed us for. Instead, Junger writes about how society has moved away from communal living. He gives examples of how we live at a time where a sense of entitlement has replaced a sense of village. Sebastian Junger shows us just how at odds the structure of modern society is with our tribal instincts, arguing that the difficulties many veterans face upon returning home from war do not stem entirely from the trauma they’ve suffered, but also from the individualist societies they must reintegrate into. Sebastian Junger, takes a critical look at post-traumatic stress disorder and the many challenges today’s returning veterans face.

Junger tackles the tough subjects of the rising rate of mental illness and PTSD that many in our society are experiencing. His book starts at the beginning with the Native Americans and their society that celebrated communal living and how we have moved away from the collective to the induvial. His book provides many stories of how our current way of living with selfishness and lack of connection has led to a disconnected society.

The most recent example of societal disconnect includes many of the combat veterans who come home only to find themselves missing the incredibly intimate bonds of platoon life. According to Junger, the loss of closeness that comes at the end of deployment may explain the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today. Tribe explores what we can learn from tribal societies about connection, belonging, loyalty, and the question for meaning.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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