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Archive for the ‘Toning the OM’ Category

Raise the Volume of Love

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

“Do things that light you up with people who light you up for people you love to serve.” ~Jonathan Fields

What happens when you bring 250 people from all around the world together to immerse in inspired learning, to connect on deep levels, and to play like a kid? Magic. Pure magic.

I signed up for the Camp Good Life Project as soon as the invitation came to my inbox and couldn’t wait to experiences of 3+ days of learning bliss with writer, entrepreneur, and venture builder,  Jonathan Fields.

Before the Camp Good Life Project this past weekend (known as Camp GLP), I had some life changing experiences. In June, a good friend found out she had a brain tumor. In July, my mother-in-law passed away. And by August, I was running a NYC mentoring program solo. Plus, a foot injury, fatigue, and dizziness slowed down my exercise.

By the time I was ready to leave for Camp GLP in September, I felt worn down, exhausted, and still full of so much grief. I decided that since the camp was only a 90-minute ride from my house, I would still go. So I threw clothes in a bag and packed my journal, flashlight, and my drum in the hopes that a few days away would rejuvenate me.

Upon arrival, I was greeted with big smiles, bubbles, and a warm welcome. I thought, “I can do this. I have no idea what I am doing, but I can do this.” Later I was greeted with big hugs from Stephanie and Jonathan Fields.

welcome_campersThe weekend was a chance to reconnect with my love of service, creating community/tribes, and leading heart-centered work in the world. And for 3+ days, I had the chance to immerse myself in ways that would engage my mind and heart like I never did before. There were workshops on time bending, tea-blending, hand-lettering, mindfulness, podcasting, book-binding, visual branding, crowdfunding and so much more. And if that wasn’t enough, there was so much time to PLAY! The camp included a bonfire (with s’mores!), color wars, swimming, rock climbing, wearable art, and a talent show.

By the end of the weekend, I realized it wasn’t really a matter of “doing” anything. I just needed to show up – as is. And whether singing at a bonfire or writing in my journal or crying by the lake, it was perfect. I realized it wasn’t about not knowing what I am doing, but rather it was about being all of me.

Camp GLP was a powerful experience – not just because it gathered beautiful world-shakers and makers together. But Camp GLP was powerful because there was reminder throughout the whole weekend to ask and listen for the power of living a Good Life.

The weekend was a deep experience of what can happen when we gather with intention, inspiration, service, and practices of the heart. It really is life-changing.

As I sat writing and coloring in my visual journal in the Capture the Wow class (with the awesome Cynthia Morris) and the Hand-Lettering class, I kept drawing and writing the words, “Raise the volume of Love.”

As soon as I wrote the words, I relaxed into my beingness realizing I had all I needed for my life, my business, my work and my connection to nature and Spirit. I am (still) learning to integrate my heart-centered work with all the emotions of the heart. And my Good Life Project is becoming more clear – to raise the volume of love.

Camp GLP was more than a weekend or an event. It’s what one of my friends would call “a happening.” It felt like a movement – a stirring towards alignment meeting action.

So, when people asked me what I learned at Summer Camp GLP, I smile, and say:

Raise the Volume of Love!

Big shout out to Jonathan Fields, Stephanie Fields, the Crew, KC, Cynthia Morris, the volunteers, and all the campers at CampGLP! Thank you for raising the volume of love.

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The Wardrobe of Grief

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

boat-shoesAs Joan Didion writes in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.”

After the recent death of my mother-in-law, the memory of wearing grief returned. My wardrobe of grief is not only the memory of the clothes I wore for the wake and funeral services. The wardrobe is the grief worn the days, weeks, and months after all the services have finished and the return to daily living begins. It is the one not many people see because it is worn on the inside.

The wardrobe of grief is the memories that keep us going when the tears flow down our face. It is the senses that hold the memories. The wardrobe is filled with the recollections of the favorite clothes worn by those who have passed away: My mother’s sweaters. My father-in-law’s boat shoes. My mother-in-law’s well-worn slippers. It’s the inner and outer garments that often carry the memories for those we love.

Didion writes, “Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life. Virtually everyone who has ever experienced grief mentions this phenomenon of waves.” All it takes is a song, a place, or just seeing my mother’s blue bathrobe hanging up, and I am filled with immediate waves of emotion. Fourteen years after my mother’s passing, I still have a closet full of grief.

Grief turns out to be an experience of memories – both painful and joyful. Grief is a uniquely transformative experience and takes us to surprising places and unearths responses we could never imagine, like talking to an American flag, or a candle, or a set of rosary beads.

Over time, the wardrobe changes and new styles are worn. The wardrobe is comforting. And when it no longer serves its purpose, it will go back on the hanger.

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Being Here—Being Home

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

There was a time I was between here and there. Now I find myself between here and here.

I came across the above line in my journal recently and was reminded just how easy it is to move away from the present moment. I have recently removed a lot of “activity” from my schedule and it now has space for walking, watching sunsets, meditating, writing, and sitting. It’s amazing how busy we can convince ourselves to be!

As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his writing, I Have Arrived, I Am Home:

“I have arrived” is our practice. When we breathe in, we take refuge in our in-breath, and we say, “I have arrived.” When we take a step, we take refuge in our step, and we say, “I am home.” This is not a statement to yourself or another person. “I have arrived, I am home” means I have stopped running; I have arrived in the present moment contains life. When I breathe in and take refuge in my in-breath, I touch life deeply. When I take a step and I take refuge entirely in my step, I also touch life deeply, and by doing so I stop running.
          Stop running is a very important practice. We have all been running all of our lives. We believe that peace, happiness, and success are present in some other place and time. We don’t know that everything—peace, happiness, and stability—should be looked for in the here and the now. This is the address of life—the intersection of here and now.

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me of the gift of the present moment. I have stopped running and I have arrived. For me, being here is being home.

Welcome home.

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You Are the Beloved – Always.

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Snatam Kaur came to New York City last week as part of her Spirit Voyage kirtan concert series. I arrived early for the concert and waited for her to come on stage. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay for the whole show as I was teaching a shamanic workshop the following day and needed to get up early. The thoughts starting running through my head about not being able to stay for the concert, how late I would get home, and early I had to get up.

I was starting to feel really anxious and then Snatam Kaur came on stage, bowed and sang:

Oh my beloved
Kindness of the heart
Breath of life
I bow to you
And I’m coming home
And I’m coming home

I started to sing the words and couldn’t get them out because I was moved to tears. With all my anxiety, all I could hear was the beginning line of the song, “Oh my beloved.” Then as I whispered the words to the song, I heard inside my heart, “Breathe, beloved. Chant, beloved. Sing, beloved. Come home, beloved.”


As I sat, I imagined the whole room as if it were the beloved.


You Are the Beloved – always.


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“Are You Really That Positive?”

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

In a conversation with an acquaintance last week, she said, “I read all your blogs for inspiration. Are you really that positive?” The question threw me for a loop. I actually never thought about whether I am really positive. I only know what gets me through the most difficult experiences is when I just sit, listen, meditate, and allow feelings to flow. When I get out my head and listen to my heart, I have discovered that inspiration and love are abundant.

That’s not to say I don’t have bad moments, depressing days, frustrating situations, and negative attitudes — I do! Just last week I told a close friend and colleague, “I suck.” I couldn’t get out of my own way and all I could see was everything that was not working. I was annoyed at the MTA for their numerous delays (& filthy trains). I was aggravated with a team I was working with on a project who showed up late to a big meeting. I became extremely angry at an organization that wrote they were returning only about a third of my money when I informed them I couldn’t attend their conference in May (despite four months notice). I was so overwhelmed by the amount of work I had to do, I just started crying in my office. I had feelings of stupidity and unworthiness flood through me. At the same time, I still kept working, writing, praying, meditating, resting, calling friends, and laughing. I am all of it.

I write inspiring words, poetry, prayers, and creative ideas because it helps me move through the muck. The words are for myself as much as they are for those that read them.  Am I really that positive? I guess I would answer: I am really that human.

Humbly yours,
Mary Anne

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One Humanity – An Uprising of Love with Haiti

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

One HumanityAs the pictures of Haiti come flooding in, I close my eyes and say a prayer. After five minutes, I start crying, and saying, “Oh my God, that’s terrible.” After ten minutes, I turn off the television or radio, but not the feelings from seeing the images. A 7.0 earthquake shakes the earth, tremors felt over and over, and huge concrete structures collapse all over Haiti. There is a range of emotions from shock to sadness, to worry to fear of not finding loved ones, to compassion and the urge to do something.

News reports come in about the collapsing of the UN mission headquarters, people wanting to up rise as they wait for food and water to arrive, and the fires that spread. Then new reports start coming in how people in Haiti spontaneously start walking and singing hymns in the streets. We watch as people from all over the world come together to provide relief in various forms. We can help by donating to organizations such as, the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and a new fundraising effort spearheaded yesterday by former Presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Many credit card companies are even waiving fees on denotations. In our greatest tragedy comes our greatest humanity.

In our heightened state of grief, we can give generously. We give to our friends in Haiti because in them we see ourselves. We are our Haitian brothers and sisters. Let’s all come on up for the rising of relief.

In the words of Bruce Springsteen’s song, The Rising:

“Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burn’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life (a dream of life)

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine

Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight.”

Let’s all rise up and bring compassionate action to the men, women, and children in Haiti.

Mary Anne

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My Hug with Amma

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Amma - Hugging Saint

Amma - Hugging Saint

“The first step in spiritual life is to have compassion. A person who is kind and loving never needs to go searching for God. God rushes toward any heart that beats with compassion-it is God’s favorite place.”

Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi Devi)

I joined hundreds, if not thousands, of New Yorker’s last week when I went to the Manhattan Center to receive darshan with Amma. Amma is affectionately known as ‘mother’, ‘hugging mother’, and ‘hugging saint’. She has devoted most of her life to humanitarian causes around the world, especially in her home country of India. Amma says her sole mission is “to love and serve one and all.” Her only wish is “that her hands should always be on someone’s shoulder, consoling and caressing them and wiping their tears, even while breathing her last.” Amma’s purpose is to embrace the world – otherwise known as an Amma hug. She holds you tightly in her arms, like a mother holding a new born baby. She whispers in the ear of each person she hugs, and can often be heard saying, “my dear, dear child.”

There are no words to possibly express the experience with Amma – each person has their own spiritual awakening. While in her presence, I found myself more open to the divinity within. After receiving my blessing, my hug, my embrace, and love, I walked away wanting to just sit in stillness and silence. I found that I wanted to be reminded of love, compassion, and service. I wanted to rest in the place of noticing how love shows up in my life. I wanted to hear the sound of my heartbeat and my breath. I wanted to look at each person that caught my eye and just smile.

I watched as each person slowly walked away from Amma’s embrace – many smiling, others with tears rolling down their cheeks, and others placing their hands on their hearts. As I watched streams of people, everything suddenly slowed down, and I realized that I was also smiling and crying simultaneously. I closed my eyes and prayed for the willingness to give myself the same compassion Amma so lovingly shared with me.

In one simple and profound act, Amma is able to touch the hearts and minds of millions of people. But with Amma it is more than being held – it is being seen and loved for being a gift to the world. It is an act of selfless service by BEING with people where they are at. As I continue to feel the love vibrate within, I am reminded of all the things I do each day for work, for school, for getting through each day and it is not the actions that are the service, but the love I give to them. If I can show up each day with love and compassion with myself and all those I meet, I can be of more service to the world.

In what ways do we embrace the world, or even embrace one another? As Amma says, “Love is the foundation of a happy life. Knowingly or unknowingly we are forgetting this truth.” Amma on several occasions has said that it is important not only to feel love but also to express it. “After all, love is our true nature. When we do not express love in our words and actions it is like honey hidden in a rock.”

How do you share love and compassion? How do you want to be of more service each and every day?

Dedicated to Amma, to my friend Padmini, to Lorene, to my beloved mom, and to all those who generously share their smile and hugs with me.

I AM Love, Mary Anne

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My Tribute to Michael Jackson

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Michael Jackson - Apollo Theater NYC

Michael Jackson - Apollo Theater NYC

I have been watching the television coverage about the life and death of Michael Jackson. I sang my heart out all weekend listening to his songs. I cried when I stood at the memorial at the Apollo Theater. I stood alongside so many people of all ages, races, ethnicities shedding tears, writing on the memorial wall, taking photos, and singing his songs at the top of my lungs. The entire way home, I blasted WKTU and sang “Billy Jean”, “Man in the Mirror”, and “ABC” over and over again.

It is so easy to get caught up in the media circus. I don’t have the time or the patience to separate truth from fiction. All I know is this — I loved his music. His death feels like I lost a piece of my childhood and the innocence of that time of my life. It was life before social media, full-time tabloids, and 24 hours of streaming news. It was a time of adolescence and blaring MTV videos.

I have vivid memories of singing and dancing to Michael Jackson videos in the basement with my sister. There we would be, after finally getting cablevision, and I can still see that brown box with the long wire, playing channel 29, and blasting MTV until we heard the pound on the side of the wall from our parents to “Lower the music!” With his music, I felt like I could sing and dance. I imitated him like so many other young people. From “Beat It” to “Heal the World,” his music has been a part of my life through adolescence into adulthood.

Michael Jackson’s death at the age of 50 evoked great sadness in me. I found myself saying he was too young. I feel this way because I lost my mother at the age of 55 and the anniversary of her death is approaching. The more I thought about it, I realized I was the one putting the age limitations on life. Perhaps people pass in their own time, and while I may miss them and want them to live longer, it is not for me to judge that they were too young to die. People pass at an age that they need to move on — and it is for me to learn how to move on with the lessons and gifts they shared.

Life is a gift. Every day, every sunrise, every breath is a gift. As a friend once told me many years ago that we can toss “the flowers” while the person is alive so they get to hear it.

Michael Jackson was many things to many people and although he was controversial, he was also a brilliant musician, artist, dancer, and influenced music beyond words. I don’t know his whole story, what happened in his childhood, or even what happened the day he died. All I know is that his music inspires me, makes me smile, and move my feet. His lyrics are contagious and powerful. How can we not be inspired by the words, “If we wannna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make that change.”? Thank you for the music, Michael.

Dedicated to the life and legacy of Michael Jackson. Rest in Peace.

Mary Anne

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The Gifts of Stonewall – 40 Years Later

Friday, June 26th, 2009

It was the evening of June 27, 1969 – the NYC Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn – and Greenwich Village was turned upside down. These raids were common and people were arrested for being homosexual. Gay men were beaten, dragged onto the streets, and arrested because of their sexuality. But on this night, gays had enough, and fought back in what has been called the Stonewall Riots. For many nights, protestors stood outside the Stonewall Inn and fought off the cops. This is what history has deemed as the beginning of the Gay Movement. And, yes, we have moved forward in so many ways, and yet, not enough in some areas.

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This is an opportunity to look back with gratitude for all who stood outside the Stonewall Inn and stood up for GLBT rights and say thank you. It is also an opportunity to make sure that all the sacrifices by those who came before us were not made in vain. They prepared the way for greater liberation for all. We can thank them by our continued efforts to educate, advocate, and bring our ideas and visions forward.

At a time when our President announces benefits for same-sex federal employees, we still have a military policy of, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” At a time when couples are rushing to Iowa (yes, Iowa!) to get married, many states are telling us that civil unions are enough or worse yet, reversing same-sex marriage.

People have told me to wait until the right time to speak about marriage equality, adoptions, and medical protections. “When is the right time for civil rights?” asked Lance Black, screen writer for the movie Milk. He went on to say that this country historically has worked on civil rights issues during times of unrest. Was it good timing when Rosa Parks sat at the front of the bus? Every movement has its time and I believe this is our time to open up the conversation for equality for the GLBT community. If we think back to the time of prosperity during the Clinton presidency, we walked away with two terrible policies, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).

Everyone has their views and I respect that. What I really desire is a society that honors love between adults. I dream of a day when it is not a matter of straight marriage and gay marriage, but honoring love. I have been with my partner for 15 wonderful years. We are present in the lives of our families during both times of joy and pain. We have lost loved ones and have been there for each other through sickness and health. Yet, I have to consciously decide when and to whom to share my life’s story and how. I have to choose how to answer medical forms which often leave my relationship out when I am asked to circle, “married, single or divorced.” I have had to accept being introduced (after 15 years) as my partners “friend.” I accept that change is slow and I accept that change is possible – because on a personal level, I have changed how I show up in the world and live my life with openness and vulnerability.

The best part of my life is the fact that I share it with everyone – men, women, gay, straight, bi-sexual, African American, Indian, white, social workers, city workers, life coaches, shamans, writers, nuns, nurses, business owners etc…I love that we are all of it. We are woven into the fabric of society.

The gift of Stonewall is that we stood up and said we are here – see us. I didn’t “come out” because I wanted people to tolerate me. I came out because I wanted folks to know I love and hurt like everyone else. This is a time of celebrating 40 years of a rich and diverse community. This year, I invite you to stand alongside a gay or lesbian friend or family member. Stand alongside and thank them for the gift of love and courage they give to the world. Stonewall lives on.

I am grateful for all the men and women who went before me and stood up for their right to be loved and love others – no matter their sexual orientation. I am grateful for all those in the Stonewall Rebellion. I am grateful for my loving life partner, Lorene, for 15 wonderful years.

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Living Succinctly

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I recently finished the book The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta. In his book he talks about creating a blueprint for living with less clutter, noise, distractions, and unnecessary interruptions in our daily living. Babauta says, “By setting limitations, we must choose the essential.”

How can we choose the essential? I started looking at all the “stuff” in my life. These are the things that fill up my home, my desk, my inbox, and even the trunk of my car. I began to notice that I was surrounded by so many unessential things. My vision is to live more succinctly. I want to be able to live with fewer things and make myself available for more experiences. A rich filled life for me is not having more things, but the ability to spend time with good friends, travel to new places, and create space for more learning.

To live succinctly means keeping the essential and letting the rest fall away. A good example that Babauta refers to in choosing the essential is in a poetry form known as a haiku. A haiku is Japanese style poetry written in seventeen syllables on three lines (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables). A haiku is usually written about a nature related ordinary moment. Back in 1990, I wrote a Haiku poem in response to some volunteer work I was doing with children in the Bahamas.

Little arms and hands

Wrapped around my waist show me

The beauty of God-

Here is to speaking and living succinctly – and noticing what begins to show up in your life. Are there places in your life where you can set limitations and free yourself for more of the essential? Take notice of how you fill your days, your desk, and your home.

Start with the beauty of a Haiku. Everyone is invited to send me their haiku poems and I will post them. Send your poems to toningtheom@yahoo.com.

This blog is dedicated to all my English teachers who inspired me to read poetry and encouraged me to write. The haiku is dedicated to all the children in the Bahamas where living succinctly and lovingly was a gift I still carry today.

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