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“Truth Be Told – I Choose You”

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Truth Be Told - I Choose You

Truth Be Told - I Choose You

I opened up my email from a friend, and read the first line, “Truth be told – I choose you.” Seeing the words on the screen, a flood of tears came. I took a breath and read it again. More tears came rolling down my cheeks. Suddenly, I felt overcome with emotion. I turned the computer off and just repeated the words. I felt a huge release come over my body. I began to shake and I could feel an old protective rusty cage around my heart snap open. My heart felt softer and expansive at the same time. Years of caution and mistrust just melted away with that one powerful line.

My heart felt open and ready to receive love. I wiped the tears from my face and sat quietly. I repeated the line, truth be told – I choose you, over and over again. Voicing the phrase aloud, I felt an enormous power inside that revealed a pure essence that has always been there, but one I had not accepted. Each word in that line was a transformative vibration – truth, be, told, I, choose, you. This phrase represented the grandest invitation to life. This is the experience of totality – the gift of fully inviting another person on your life’s journey. It’s the power of invitation.

When we invite others to join us on our journey, we open ourselves up to a vulnerable place that can reveal incredible gifts. If we really allow others into our hearts, we can experience the fullness of life. One invitation can be the difference in how we experience the world. Inviting others into our world can be a life changing event. Truth be told – I chose you was a spiritual awakening.

I so deeply experienced the intimacy of allowing a friend to connect with my essence – it wasn’t about what I do or who I know – it was about inviting me because of who I AM. I felt like an apostle when Jesus said, “Come, Follow Me.” This is the greatest of faiths. The invitation is about dropping everything to be present with another.

I turned the computer back on, read the line, and smiled. I felt so much gratitude to have such a wonderful friend and hoped she knew just how powerful that opening line was in her message. There was so much relief after so many years of carrying such a protective cage around my heart. Now, my heart feels open to receive more love in every form.

How do you invite more love into your life? Byron Katie says, “Love is action.” Choose to invite someone into your heart. Give the gift of invitation.

Truth Be Told – I Choose You, Too!

Special thanks to my friend for sending me this powerful message of invitation and love. I am blessed to have you in my life. Thank you for opening my heart and feeding my soul.

More Love!

Mary Anne


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Peace – There’s an App for That

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Peace - There's An App for That

Peace - There's An App for That

“Do you want to identify a bird? There’s an app for that.” “Do you need to find a pizza place in Brooklyn? There’s an app for that.” “Do you want to find the place with the best surfing conditions? There’s an app for that.”After watching so many commercials about the iPhone, I have come to realize that they have over 35,000 applications (app). There’s an app for almost anything right at your finger tips.

This started my thinking about what other kind of apps could be added. What about having a peace app? What would a peace app look and feel like? What if just by hitting the peace app button, a whole screen opened up for us to fully experience peace? Perhaps that app already exists inside each of us and it is just a matter of accessing it.

There is an incredible CD, Celebrate Peace, by Snatam Kaur. This CD is about spreading hopeful messages about practicing and cultivating peace. Kaur talks about all of us sharing in the vision of witnessing peace everyday all around us. Kaur says, “Peace begins with choice, develops through practice, and spreads by example.” The question then becomes, are we willing to practice and share peace with one another? It starts with each person being peace. We can then see peace in each other.

Each of us can be the peace story. On a cold day in January 2003, an “old man” stands by the side of the road in upstate New York holding up a sign. The United States had just declared that we would go to war. And one man stood in bitter cold temperatures wrapped in a flannel shirt and wearing a winter cap with a sign that simply read – PEACE. That man was Pete Seeger. He has spent his lifetime teaching and living peace by cleaning up the Hudson River and singing songs of hope and peace. He just turned 90 years old this year and is still gathering folks to joyfully sing together. Seeger’s songs are about spreading peace and harmony throughout the world.

We can celebrate peace each and every day in small and big ways. We can speak kinder words – and listen to one another. We can practice peace in our everyday lives in how we spend time with one another, how we support one another, and how we collaborate with one another. Let’s celebrate every moment of peace. As Kaur says, “By celebrating peace, we acknowledge that it exists, call attention to it, unite around it, and inspire others to embrace it.”

Inside of us lives peace. Be peace. Live peace. Love peace. Give peace. Peace be with you – my peace I offer you. Offer each person you meet today your peace.

We are so much more than our technology – we are the human spirit.

Peace – There’s an app for that. Humanity.

This blog is dedicated to Pete Seeger for all his work and music that creates peaceful connections throughout the world.

Peace!
Mary Anne

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My MTA Mystical Moment

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

NYC subway
NYC subway

Just when you think you have experienced everything on the NYC subway system, you wake up and realize that new experiences are there waiting for you. Last week, I took the G train to Brooklyn and realized in my almost 20 years in NYC, I had never taken the G train before. I felt like a little kid taking a ride and felt excitement come over me as I discovered new parts of the city.

I wasn’t always open to new subway moments. As a matter of fact, I have had my share (like most New Yorkers) of MTA frustrations, announcements, delays, and cancelled services. Throughout my years taking the MTA subway into Manhattan from the Bronx, I have been delayed by hours due to sick passengers, kicked off the train for unknown reasons, asked to exit through all the cars because of a fire, and left stranded at East 180th Street.

For many years, I had subway anxiety. I worried about getting to work late and panicked when the train was delayed for “traffic ahead.” Having to stand for an hour on the subway also caused a lot of distress. I decided to travel with a good book and iPod to help get me through my ride with more ease. I would tune out the announcements and concentrate on reading and listening to my favorite music or podcasts.

This past week, I had an amazing MTA mystical moment. I was listening to the Oprah-Spirit Channel Podcast – that alone is a mystical moment. I had downloaded a few podcasts that expand my thinking and spark my creativity. On this particular morning, I was listening to an interview with Oprah and Daniel Pink (his book A Whole New Mind is amazing). In the background, the conductor was making announcements about delays. At first I ignored them, but then our train stopped for at least 5 minutes, and the announcement came again, “We are sorry for the delay. There is a police investigation up ahead. As soon as we receive clearance, we will proceed.” Passengers started mumbling, cursing, and rolling their eyes at the announcement.

I thought, ‘I can handle a small delay.’ Then, there was another announcement about the delay. I made my iPod louder to block it. Finally, after the third announcement, the words “police investigation ahead” echoed in the background. I took a breath, closed my eyes, and became still in the midst of a crowded subway car. In that quiet space, I could hear a soft voice inside repeating the words, investigation, investigation, investigation. And the moment came when my mind allowed the questions to come in and I could hear myself ask, “What needs investigation in your life right now? In what areas do you need to investigate?”

I let the questions float without answering them. I began to see a screen of areas in my life that need further exploration. I started my morning by experiencing the delay as an opportunity to investigate parts of my work, relationships, and dreams.

The delay taught me the lesson of slowing down and not rushing from thing to thing. Am I in a rush or is my mind in a rush? Looking for the bigger picture in the smaller moments can be some of the greatest gifts – even with a half hour delay due to a police investigation. I am grateful to the MTA for giving me the mystical moment to slow down and investigate my life. What a beautiful way to start the day! Perfect!

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Peanut Butter & Jelly and Abundance

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Quick — think of the first three things that come to mind when you hear the words peanut butter and jelly. For some, peanut butter and jelly reminded you of school lunch, or scooping it out of the jar or maybe even a Reese peanut butter cup. Whatever our associations, we have learned in neuroscience that no two brains are alike and we have memories that are hardwired. It’s not about erasing the hardwiring; it’s about creating new wiring.

My memories of peanut butter and jelly are very strong. As a child, I was a very picky eater (especially if it involved a green vegetable). I would only eat two types of sandwiches and one of them was a jelly sandwich every Friday. No peanut butter. The smell of it would make me do a fake gag sound. So, my parents didn’t resist and gave me the jelly sandwich. I would move my seat if someone near me ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I just couldn’t see myself ever eating it.

In 1992, I moved to New York City. I got a job as an “Activity Specialist” with youth in the South Bronx. My annual salary at the time was 16K. Needless to say, I had to quickly learn how to budget. The take home pay was low and expenses were high. Living on this salary became very difficult. I went to the food store to see what I could afford and realized an inexpensive food was peanut butter. I decided I would give in and taste it. Much to my surprise, it tasted pretty good. I learned to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for over a year, probably close to three years. Eventually, I would be promoted and my salary would increase. I turned in my peanut butter and jelly for turkey sandwiches.

My last strong memory of eating peanut butter and jelly is from 2001 when I traveled to Banff National Park in Canada. A group of us went on a hiking vacation. We were a little out of shape, but loved walking new trails and wanted to experience the beauty of all the alpine flowers. We decided to take a 5 mile hike on the Plain of the Six Glaciers. The description in the trail guide book said it is an easy day hike. We started walking the trail at a slow pace enjoying the scenery. About 2 miles in, the trail terrain changed and we had to climb some difficult switchbacks. When we arrived at the top, we found that the trail led to a Tea House. We were so hot and hungry; we were almost delirious. At the top of the mountain was a Tea House selling huge peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for $6. I had never paid that much for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before, but they were gigantic. I don’t think I was even able to finish the sandwich. Afterwards, the only thing I remember is telling everyone, “That was the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I ever had in my life.”

Looking back now, I realize I had three very different memories of peanut butter and jelly. One memory was an unwillingness to even try it out. Another was eating it out of desperation and scarcity and lastly a memory of gratitude and abundance. With just a simple phrase like peanut butter and jelly, there is such an array of looking at choices and approaches. My old wiring said peanut butter and jelly was not worth trying or if it is that is because it is cheap and affordable. I was able to create new wiring that allowed me to experience peanut butter as not only delicious, but abundant.

I began to ponder where else in my life is old wiring holding me back from having new experiences. Recently, I have been contemplating how I can expand my healing arts company. I am envisioning what that would look like and what I would need to do to fully bring myself to my growing edge. What would I need to let go of to spend more time on building my company? What would it take to do what I love full-time, even if it meant giving up some comforts I enjoy now? My first response was, “Listen. I lived on peanut butter and jelly for almost three years and I am not going back now.” Is that response coming from not trying, scarcity, or abundance? That response is really just fear talking. I can choose to give into the voice of fear or I can take a risk and see this as way of “tasting” a new food. I can step into doing what I love, what brings me joy, and what feeds my soul and still enjoy eating the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the world.

What are you choosing? Are there things you are not willing to try out of fear? Do you see simplicity as scarcity? Or are you able to look at an area of your life that you are willing to grow and think abundance?

Today, I am choosing to enjoy an abundant peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Would you like to share it with me?

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Resting in Radical Forgiveness

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I have been reflecting on the notion of resting in radical forgiveness. It has come up as a theme as a student and teacher. Right at this time, my friend Joe Monkman recommended the book Radical Forgiveness by Colin C. Tipping. I thought it could help me understand on a high level about forgiveness. I wasn’t ready for the punch in the stomach when I began reading and realized all the ways I had not forgiven myself or others. Tipping says, “Radical Forgiveness occurs simply as a consequence of our opening up to the possibility that everything happens for a reason, and there are no mistakes. If we could see the spiritual big picture (which we cannot), we would understand that the situation was divinely guided and happened not TO us but FOR us.”

Tipping goes on to explain that our Spiritual Intelligence can actually call forth the experiences and people for our healing and our spiritual growth. It is one of those lessons about people being in our life for a reason, season, or lifetime. People come in and out of our lives to heal us, to hurt us, to open us, to challenge us, to teach us, but ultimately, to provide us with a lesson to learn.

When people annoy me, I find myself singing, “There’s a lesson to be learned.” I don’t always get the lesson right away and often have to sit in the emotional turmoil before the insight occurs. Part of that sitting is the art of resting in radical forgiveness. It isn’t just the act of forgiving; it’s getting to that place and resting. I have learned this personally and professionally.

About a year ago, I had a ticket booked to the Virgin Islands. I was hired to facilitate drumming and healing circles with young men in a juvenile facility and women and families in a battered women’s program. I had put a lot of time and attention into creating a safe and fun program. Plus, I was going to hang out with a good friend and hit the beaches. Then, the call came. One week before my trip, my sister called to say my father collapsed in Ireland. He had traveled there to attend his sister’s funeral, became ill, and was taken to Cork County Hospital. Someone needed to go check on him and travel with him back to New Jersey. “Do you want me to cancel my trip to the Virgin Islands and go get Dad?” I asked. The answer was yes as my sisters have children and couldn’t rearrange their schedules. I already had the vacation time planned so off I went to reschedule my workshops and re-book a ticket from the Virgin Islands to Ireland.

As I prepared for this emotional trip, I wasn’t really sure how ill my dad was and if he would be strong enough to fly home. I repacked my bags and took out all the shorts and t-shirts and packed wool sweaters and gloves. I arrived at the hospital seven days later, walking into a room that read “Men’s Ward.” I looked down the long corridor, pushed the double door open, and there before me I saw rows of cots. Irish men looked up and smiled at me; a few even gave a wink my way. There on the left hand side was my father lying in the bed in red and white pajamas, pale faced, coughing up a lung. He gave me a big hello, hugged me, and thanked me for coming.

A few days later, we took him back to my uncle’s house for rest before our journey back to New Jersey. That’s when it all went downhill. When we arrived at my uncle’s house, my father could barely hold himself up. He started making calls about going out to the pubs. The second night home from the hospital, he went to my aunt’s house for a family mass and said I couldn’t go, and to “mind the house.” What? I flew 3,000 miles and cancelled a trip to the Virgin Islands to help him and he wanted me to mind the house? It wasn’t until he returned at nearly 4am that morning that I became the angriest.

My father awoke the next morning looking worse than ever, skipped breakfast, despite that his medications are scheduled with his meals. When I saw him, I explained how angry I was at what he was doing. He laughed at me and said he was fine and would be going out to the pub that night. Needless to say, the hurt and rage running through me hit a boiling point and I told him if he kept abusing his body, then he could take care of himself. The rest of the trip was painful and all I wanted was to return to my house in New York City. I had enough emotional and verbal abuse and I began to count the days until I arrived home.

I tell this story because it has taken me almost a full year to realize the impact it has had on me, how it has affected my relationship with my father, and how I have not fully forgiven him. I realize I need to rest in the place of radical forgiveness. I need to really be in that place of non-attachment and listening deeply for the lesson.

I have learned that my father couldn’t really be present and wanted to socialize and that I wanted a father to see his daughter give up everything to be there for him. The lesson for me became an understanding of how to be more present when I am with people. My father gave me the lesson of learning how to be aware of kindness and really appreciate it. I realize that my father has never invested the time or energy to really know me and what I am about and that I cannot change that. I can only change how it affects me. I no longer seek his approval. The big spiritual picture that Tipping refers to was coming to the realization that I am enough just the way I am.

So, for now, I am moving towards radically forgiving my father for his inability to be present and consciously aware of the hurt he caused. Forgiveness is not an act; it’s a process. In order to forgive, there must be a journey of going to the place of healing. It’s coming to a place and resting – just resting.

What will it take for you to rest in radical forgiveness? I would love to hear your ideas and/or experiences of resting in radical forgiveness.

For more information on Radical Forgiveness, please go to https://www.radicalforgiveness.com/

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With Every Breath…Start Over

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

“It’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best of it or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

A friend of mine recently told me that we learn by looking backwards – too bad we have to live life forwards. Perhaps because I was watching the Oscars and saw many people tell stories of redemption or perhaps because my family has had to do some major shifting after finding a new member of the family, I began to ponder the idea of starting over.

If you were to look at all the big movies in 2008 – Milk, SlumDog Millionaire, Frozen River, The Wrestler, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road – you will see that they all touch on major issues of birth, death, redemption, decisions, relationships, and hope-filled visions. It’s in the smallest of moments when the biggest decisions are made and questions get asked. How do I say good-bye? How can I promote equality and justice? Where do I fit in? How can I love more?

It’s easy to see a speck of light in another, but often more difficult to see it in ourselves. Starting over means we can release the past without judgment and move forward without baggage. How many times have you started over? I think about the first time I moved out of the house at 17 and never looked back. I was hoping for a new environment to escape to and hopefully find a place to thrive. I found my first job in the South Bronx and moved with two duffel bags and a few hundred bucks to start over. I had to find my way, often literally, because I got on the wrong subway. After I felt like I had given all I had serving youth in the South Bronx, I changed jobs. In my new job at the Red Cross, I taught CPR/First Aide and trained volunteers. In starting over at the Red Cross, I decided I would be ‘out of the closet’ from the beginning and put a picture of my partner on my desk. After a few years, and a lot of management turn over, I left and returned to the South Bronx to help create youth focused programs.

After 15 years in nonprofit, I realized that it was my time to lead, to inspire, to create my own way, so I started my own company. With the support of my partner, a dream, and a notebook full of ideas, I launched my healing arts company in 2006. It was outside of everything that was comfortable, easy, and known, but I had to do it. I realize to start over, you may have to be willing to give up what may seem real, important, and safe. But in starting over, the real gift is that life opens new doors and gifts never imagined come into your life.

I am not sure I could ever be Benjamin Button and live life backwards, but I can take time to really ‘be myself’ looking forward. Time is more than a gift; it’s an imaginary line that moves. Starting over is more than changing jobs, it’s changing the direction of the road you travel. Every day, every moment, every minute is a chance to start over. With each breath, I hope you have the courage to start over.

Mary Anne

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Creating My Own I Love You Hallmark

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

This is one of the biggest Hallmark holidays of the year. We look to see how we can express the words “I love you” with cards, flowers, candy, gifts, wine, and perhaps a meal out. We tend to express our love for each other more on a day we call Valentine’s Day.

I started thinking about all the ways and all the people to whom I say the words “I love you.” For a couple of days, I observed who I was willing to be vulnerable with and noticed how the words “I love you” came out with ease. I also listened for when the words felt more forced, as if I was responding with a “you’re welcome” to a “thank you.” With whom am I comfortable saying, “I love you?”

This reminded me of the story of all the times I would be closing a conversation with my mom and I would end it by saying I love you, but she didn’t say it back. One day I decided to ask my mom why she didn’t respond back with the words I love you. My mom said, “Of course I love you; do I have to say it every time?” I told her yes and that I was creating a new rule that every time I said I love you to her, she had to say it back. We continued this ritual and on July 11, 2000 when we spoke, I ended the call by saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you.” She said, “I love you too.” At 5:45am the next morning, my father called to say my mom had passed away at the nursing home. Throughout many years of tears, grief, and sadness, I have been comforted by my experience of our last exchanged words of I love you.

I have come to accept that I need to express love both in words and kind actions. I have to feel safe enough to be vulnerable to say I love you without an expectation that someone will say it back. They cannot be empty words. I realized I need to open my heart more to give and receive love.

I don’t say I love you often enough to my partner, to my sisters, to my friends, and even to those who have impacted my life in a significant way. Maybe it does all start with making sure you can say the words to yourself and really love and accept yourself deeply before loving another. Maybe I can fully experience myself vulnerable with the words I love you. I am committed to loving myself and others more. So, in case I have not told you lately, I love you.

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What Are You DOING?

Friday, January 16th, 2009

“What are you doing?” was the question asked to me by a co-teacher while we were facilitating a weekend intensive. We had co-created our agenda and after lunch we were going to do a guided meditation with the whole group. The plan was for me to go to the center of the room and use a large white singing bowl to create an attunement and raise the vibrational tone to start the meditation. So, on cue, I went to the center of the room, and sat down on a seat cushion to prepare to play. My co-teacher began speaking, and suddenly looked down, saw me sitting, and asked, “What are you doing?” I looked up as if caught with my hand in the cookie jar. I responded, “Nothing.” She continued, “No, really, what are you doing?” I just stared up and was quiet. In my mind I was thinking, I am doing what we said we were going to do at this time, but remained silent. Meanwhile, the rest of the class looked on thinking this was either a skit we were performing or a way of engaging them in the next experience. Slowly and calmly, I picked up my seat cushion and returned to my space in the circle.

My co-teacher went on to explain a whole new exercise she thought would work better, but had not had the chance to explain to me about the change in schedule. In her mind, she knew what she was doing and I knew what I was doing. I realized a few things in that moment, other than it is a good idea to tell your co-teacher the agenda has changed. I realized I wasn’t “doing” anything. I allowed myself to become quiet and realized it had nothing to do with “doing”, that it is about “being.”

It was a lesson about how easy it is to get caught up in the doing and the defending. I could have easily voiced back that I was getting ready to lead the meditation like we agreed, but in that moment the real lesson was just being. Every day, there are so many things “to do”, that we can forget “to be.

In a recent conversation I was reminded again of a non-doing stance. I was struggling with all the doing and wanting to answer every question. The response that came was, “There is nothing to do…Nothing…I promise…Just breathe…Nothing at all to do…You are perfect as you are…IT is all good…Do nothing…It is not about DO-ing…Just feel and let it be what it is…”

So, the question now becomes, who are you being? Practice doing nothing. See what happens. Notice the stance of non-doing and the place of being and watching and feeling and allowing. Just watch.

What are you doing? It is perfect to not have an answer.

Mary Anne

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Proposition 2009

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

“It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions. ” – Harvey Milk (1973)

As this amazing year of dreams, hopes, and possibilities comes to an end and we begin to plan for 2009, I would like to take time to offer Proposition 2009. I propose that we have a community for all people regardless of their sexual orientation. We are a society that can agree to disagree and engage in real dialog about issues that are important to us. Let me be clear that bringing people together for real conversation is very different than inviting an Evangelical Minister who has publicly made anti-gay statements to speak at one of most important events in history.

I would like to take a moment to express how disappointed I am at President Elect Obama’s choice to have Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the 56th Presidential Inauguration. The rationale about having Warren speak is that Obama is keeping his word about inviting more evangelicals to the table. This however is no ordinary table. The Inauguration is a huge event that will be televised around the world. There are many people who do not believe in same-sex marriage, including Obama. Everyone has a right to their point of view. I ought to have the same constitutional rights as all, including, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and once we start dividing up who has the right to marry, then we create subset groups of people.

Rev. Rick Warren not only opposed same-sex marriage, he has campaigned against it, including campaigning and supporting California’s Proposition 8. He has also publicly said he does not support gay marriage because he believes it is similar to a brother marrying a sister, a man with six wives, or a man with a little girl. It is one thing to not believe in same-sex marriage, but these statements bring it to a whole new level when same-sex marriage is compared to incest, polygamy, and pedophile. These statements go against not only our rights but our human dignity.

I am asking that as we enter this New Year, this historic time, this national attention to our new leader, we reflect upon the rights and dignity of all of our citizens. Proposition 2009 is about hope and in order to promote hope, we must remove hatred, division, and inequality. As a nation, we were willing to examine our views of racism and vote for an African American to bring our country together. Now, I encourage everyone to look at our views of homophobia. Proposition 2009 supports a community for all and as Harvey Milk said, “Hope will never be silent.” May everyone have a happy and healthy 2009.

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