Browsing Tag

faith

Grief, Guest Posts, religion

Wooden Bird

January 6, 2017
mountain

By Nancy Townsley

The father bends over the son, just as he did so many years ago when the boy was asleep and he murmured prayers for him, tenderly pushing his sand-colored bangs aside while asking the deity he used to believe in to make the child good and wise and kind. He would watch the comforting rise and fall of his boy’s chest and listen to his shallow breathing on those late nights, after he had finished reading and writing in his knickknack-crowded study, something he could do even with the TV blaring. Wedged between the philosophy and poetry sections on his bookshelves sat a faded Pinocchio puppet with two broken strings, the Yoda beanbag that used to make his daughter laugh, and a ball made entirely of rubber bands, all remnants from when his life was more Presbyterian, “decent and in order” as the church liked to teach, crowded with tasks and responsibilities that required him to keep a calendar with to-do lists scribbled into it, lest he lose his way.

In one corner of the room, next to the door, a wooden hummingbird with its wings spread wide hung suspended from the ceiling in a vain attempt to fly.

+

But this day, and this hour, are radically, horribly different. The son is cold, mostly frozen, like meat just taken from the freezer. His eyes are shut, ice still clinging to their dark lashes. His angular face is contorted and bruised black-and-blue. His fingers are curled, as if they’re grabbing at something, and stiff to the touch. There is a large patch of dried blood on the side of his head, the result of untold trauma. He is still, lifeless. The boy, now a man, is dead. Continue Reading…

Faith, Guest Posts

The Time To Have Faith

February 7, 2016

By Stacey Parshall Jensen

In August I was walking into my mother’s house thinking of the Native pipe ceremony we would be having that afternoon. I generally go into these ceremonies preparing myself by contemplating what prayers I’ll place in the pipe, what my intentions are, and how to make myself open to what the Great Spirit will bring me.  That’s what I was thinking when I heard a voice in my head say “Now’s the time to have some faith.”

The voice, His voice was deep. Not threatening. Not even forceful. He stated to me “Now’s the time to have some faith” because He knows I don’t have much.

As a kid I learned that if someone had the power to hurt me they probably would. And I’ve struggled for years thinking I deserved it.  But as I heal and honor the value of myself, I struggle yet today that those who can hurt–will. And I see proof of that. With acts of violence and terrorism. With attacks and deaths on people with less power.  With laws designed to hold someone or many someone’s, down.  I see and know that life is painful and I still feel most of the time my job is to be on guard. To walk swiftly but with caution. Hone my peripheral so no one can’t sneak up on me.  Figure out the plan and know my exits.   And yes, I’m exhausted.

My life IS filled with good people now. Nobody I know wants to deliberately hurt me. I accept that. I know that. And I’m grateful.  And lucky. Blessed.

But life. That force beyond us meager humans, us wee creatures is not an idea or some construct, it’s a living breathing entity beyond any control.  Sometimes, freewill, making decisions, being proactive, creating and manifesting a vision, can make things happen.  We can do all that but yet at the very same time, Life will just be what it is. And that is what I’m suppose to have faith in?

My mind goes a bit wild. I actually get sick to my stomach with fear and weak with confusion about not just what faith means and if I want some, but how do I do I get it? How do I do it?  You do faith, right? Right? Continue Reading…

cancer, death, Guest Posts

Foxholy

April 9, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Janet Reich Elsbach.

“Smile, would you please?” said my sister as I came through the door to see if she needed any help. “Jesus loves you.”

There were a number of surprising elements to this interaction, beyond the fact that the room we now both occupied was the bathroom. For one, she might more reasonably have requested that I do a tap dance. My sister was dying of cancer, her beautiful athlete’s body wrecked and wracked, and we were just home from another two days in the hospital, where as usual she had questioned and refused 98% of what was on offer, where as usual the doctors and nurses had glared at me reproachfully behind her back, and where as usual I had done a non-stop theater-in-the-round cabaret of advocacy and placation for 48 hours. Maybe I had slept for two of those hours, and not in a row. So of all facial expressions, a smile seemed farthest from my reach.

For another thing, we’re Jews.

“He does, you know,” D. continued as I attended to her. “Don’t you know that?”

Once I became old enough to really put some muscle into talking back to her, some time in my teens or twenties, I pointed out that a large percentage of what she said to me (and to others, to be fair) ended with an audible or implied, “you don’t, do you?” As in, “do you know you’re supposed to put X on Y in that order, rotate your whatsits seasonally, never accept domestic yah-yah and ONLY buy organic hmm?” Here she would pause for a second to see if there was a flicker of agreement, then sigh or even snort a little when it failed to appear. “You don’t, do you?” Eventually the sniff or sigh could stand in for the four-word codicil. Sometimes I would say it for her.

Cancer had intensified her dissatisfaction with rubes and imbeciles in ways I mostly understood, as well as raised the stakes. As her prospects grew darker and her misery increased, so did the percentage of the population around her who could get nothing right. Since I frequently numbered among them, staying present and supportive was not easy, and with this new Jesus angle, she had managed, yet again, to sling a curve ball that could completely undo me. Having a front-row seat at an epic struggle with mortality, even if it is not your own, can inspire a person to feel around in their toolbox for some connection to a higher power. Over the 18 months of her illness, I hadn’t come up with much.

We aren’t especially Jewish, even though we are Jews. I majored in anthropology, so it’s easy for me to put it that I am culturally Jewish, just not spiritually. Meaning the cuisine, the mannerisms, the sensibility: yes. I like the food well enough and the rest I couldn’t shake if I tried. Bred in the bone. But whatever spirituality I possess, I don’t tune into it on that channel.

When I was little, we were high-holy-day Jews. We had a seder at Passover, and some excellent little hamentaschen from William Greenberg’s on Third Avenue at Purim. A menorah was lit at Chanukah, but the house saw a little Christmas action, too. Barring a funeral, wedding or someone else’s mitzvah (bar or bat), the only time we went to temple was on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur; on all these occasions everyone around me knew the prayers in Hebrew and I did not.

Our house was generally a mood tinder-box at the holidays, our parents reverential one moment and irritated the next, apparently with us for not taking it seriously enough. I liked to please them, but I didn’t have much to invest since my sisters and I had never gone to religious school. So I would feel guilty and anxious, as well as excluded and confused, and all in all it was not a pleasant base from which to grow a faith. For a long time I connected my not feeling Jewish to this history, and I bet my parents did, too.

Finally I asked my mother why they never sent us to Hebrew school, if their faith was strong enough to twist and bind them with what had seemed like anger when I was smaller than they were, but I now recognized as guilt. By then I was in college, and they had become more obviously and contentedly Jewish: studying, actively identifying as Jewish philanthropists, lighting Sabbath candles, and I had become more confused about where the faith I felt was rooted. I could tell I had some but I also knew it wasn’t found, or fueled, in a building or book that I had yet encountered.

“We didn’t want to force it on you,” she said. “We had taken a big leap getting a place in the country, and at the time I felt more sure that getting out of the city would be good for you three than I did about Hebrew school. And we couldn’t do both.” I scoffed a little when she told me this, but now that I am a parent I can see completely how a person could arrive at that kind of inconclusive conclusion as the rush of life came at them. Punt! I can’t say that I’ve done much better myself, for my own three.

Around this time I was in the habit of spending a weekend in New Orleans every spring, at Jazz Fest, with D. One of the notable features of that densely packed weekend is the stream of little parades, the congregation of here or there decked out in team colors, waving flags and belting out gospel songs at the top of their impressive and collective lungs. “You kind of need Jesus for that,” I remember saying to her. Judaism, Buddhism, anything else I could think of—none of these other belief systems really loaned themselves to this kind of ecstatic, toe-tapping spectacle of testament. It was enviable, to me—that pure devotion and utter certainty and frank enjoyment that characterized their faith. Jesus had a plan, and come what may, that was the raft they set sail on and clung to in a tempest. It seemed as comforting and appealing as it was out of reach.

I was amazed that my sister had found that raft. Both my sisters had certainly gravitated more resolutely towards Judaism over the years than I had, and I’d had many occasions to wonder how it had all skipped me as they both spoke knowledgeably and comfortably about things that felt utterly foreign, even alienating to me. D.’s son even had his bar mitzvah, a first (and only) in our family for generations. And I also knew that D. was pretty open, as a seeker. Around her house you could find a little altar to Ganesh and a portrait of Lakshmi as well as a mezuzah, some Buddhist prayer beads, giant crystals from Arizona and an Islamic knot. But Jesus, now. That was new. Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts

The Seat: On Domestic Violence.

December 9, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Candace Roberts.

“Somehow I’ll manage to get through this day, too.” I thought to myself. It was a Monday. I had a full day of blocked lecture hours ahead of me. Ancient Greek History—8:30-10:20a.m., Women and Law—10:30-12:20 and Buddhism—12:30-2:20pm.

“Please, God, let this go by quickly.” I said under my breath. I knew it wouldn’t though and the day’s forecast was adding to my anxiety.

Seattle has flippant weather, sometimes. People that don’t live here usually have a grim view of the Northwest. No thanks to the media, Washington has the reputation of a dreary, depressing, state with consistent downpour. One day I’ll write about the beauties of this weather as they are magnificent and are never given enough credit. But this Monday’s ambience lived up to all of Hollywood’s generalizations. There wasn’t a break of sunlight as it was January and there was a constant airy midst that throughout the day would, at random, turn nasty for a minute. What a little tease, pouring for just a minute. Aside from the rainfall, it was freakin’ cold to the bone.

I looked around and saw that almost everyone, at least the girls anyway, were dressed like me- going for the standard wardrobe pick for Seattle winters. Ugg boots sloshing about, velour sweats tucked in, and a big Northface rain coat with the hoodie tied up under neck. No matter how rough the night before was for the typical college girl, no one really cared about committing fashion faux pas because no one wanted to feel the cold rain. Oh yes, and everyone was bookin’ it to class as fast as they could without looking like that one idiot actually running. Let’s be realistic, we have all been “that guy” before and probably not for the last time either. Whether we were running or not, it was the combination of wet, cold Seattle winter and sweaty college kid that inevitably created a class room environment that was simply gross.

Seated and feeling a hot mess in my unbearably hard, public University, sad excuse for a desk-slash-chair, I realized that the dang chair was actually kind of a problem underneath my bum. Early Greece at 8:30 am was not on my prioritized list of troubles, in fact I don’t remember a single thing that was said in class that day. My body was there…my mind was not. It was traveling methodically through the day that lay ahead of me. This day of scheduled sitting.

“Okay 570 minutes of class—did it before, I can do it again. Forty-five minute commute to work,—same shit, different day…totally do-able. Sitting in my wheelie chair at work for 5 hours— you’re getting paid, deal with it.”

My self-talk that day was not inspirational. It was hardly the usual positive vibe I mentally set myself up with, but it was completely necessary because I needed to distract myself. Continue Reading…

poetry

Answer Honestly & You Will Find Your Bliss.

May 2, 2012
What humbles you, bringing you to your knees?

What do stand gaping, open-mouthed and in awe of?
Who do you love impossibly and with every inch of possibility?
What rock have lifted to find Grace buried under it, waiting for you to pick it up?

When you bring your hands together,
there, like that~
Whose name is on your lips, as you bow your head closer to your heart?

Who have you lost along the way~
Only to discover Losing is only a temporary room
where voices, smells and gestures nestle before they return
to the bed you’ve carefully made in your heart?

Which words crack your heart open?
Which silences?

What makes you get very quiet and listen as if your life depended on it?


What if it did?

What if it all boiled down to that moment,

there on your knees,
listening with grace?


~jp

~~written in a moment of reverence (the theme of classes this week.)
Once again I am falling in love with: my yoga practice, the written word, the spoken word, silence, my body, and my faith in miracles.

jen pastiloff 5-2-12

Prader Willi Syndrome

What Do You Do When You Buy 2 Nights at a 5 Star Hotel in Paris By Accident?

May 1, 2012

What do you do?

Have Faith.

You gotta have it.

So says George, at least.

On Saturday I went to a gala for Prader Willi Angels. My nephew has Prader Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder and I pretty much love him more than anyone on the planet, so I thought I would go.

My awesome nephew and buddy Blaise who has Prader Willi Syndrome

Tickets were $150 and all money raised would go toward research. 

I was down.

Plus, I had never been to a proper gala so I was excited.

I’d get to change out of my Lululemon gear? Sweet!

So I get kind of dressed up.

My friend decides to join which I think is amazing because it is $150 after all and that’s not chump change for most. I pick her up and we look super cute together except for the fact that she is about 6 feet tall and I am closer to 5 feet so I look like a Smurf. Otherwise, totally cute. It’s even being at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica.

Swanky.

My awesome friend Elizabeth aka Cherry who came out to support Prader Willi

First mistake: I get a vodka and soda with my drink ticket. (Yes, I teach yoga. So?)

I should have known when the bartender says, ” Heavy on the vodka? Easy on the soda?”

I thought she was kidding.

She was not kidding.

So, it’s my first gala and all and I don’t really know what the proper etiquette for a gala is  (I mean, what is a gala anyway?) I start looking at the stuff being bid for the silent auction. With my vodka soda in tow.

I ask ” All the money goes towards research, right?”

Answer: Yes.

Second Mistake: I put my sticker 395 down under $30 for a Brazilian blowout in Sherman Oaks which I will probably never use because the valley is like going to New York when you live in Santa Monica.

But hey. It’s for charity.

(Yes, I won it.)

Then I see it: French Kiss it says. Luringly. (This is really the 2nd Mistake but by putting my sticker down on the first thing I got myself in trouble. Downhill from that there Brazilian blowout in the Valley.)

What’s this? I ask as I sip my drink.

Well, well, well.

It’s a 5 star (yes, 5 star) hotel in Paris.

Le Bristol.

A 2 night stay worth $3,500 dollars. (My eyes caught fire when I read that.)

So I took another sip to cool down.

I was going to be in Paris in July after my Italy yoga retreat! Ding ding ding.

3rd Mistake: Yes. I did it. I put my sticker down. Number 395. Lucky Number 395, that is.

A woman was lurking. She wanted the Paris hotel too.

It made me want it more.

(Side note: they had swiped my emergency American Express card when I walked in just in case I bid on anything and won.)

I wanted it now more because this woman wanted it. (I’m telling you, I really am quite yogic. I am not sure what got into me.)

Oh yea, a vodka soda and a little healthy competition.

4th Mistake: She walked away and I put my sticker down. Again.

The auction ended.

Yes, dear reader, you guessed it.

I won.

Ok Jen, I told myself (out loud) You may not have this money. This may be on a card your husband got you for an emergency but it all goes to research and it’s worth $3,500 so really you got quite a deal at $1,560 dollars for 2 nights in Paris. I mean, it’s a steal. It’s like for free!

Jokes aside, I panicked a bit. I really did not have that money to spend but I knew it all went to charity so I just breathed. Loud and hard. But I breathed.

I took a picture of the gift certificate I won to show the Peanut Gallery (aka my husband and mom.)

5th mistake: I take a picture of said certificate and leave it at the flipping Jonathan Club.

I get home and I realize it is gone so I put on flip flops and drive back and march back in and dig in trash cans.

Nope. Nothing.

(You have to just pause and laugh here because it is too funny.)

I immediately email the hotel ( I had taken a picture of the certificate so I knew the email) and I cc’d the girl who ran the gala. I would have to be able to get a new certificate.

Right? Somebody please tell me Right!

So here is where faith enters:

It is okay that I spent that kind of money. My first instinct after I did it was to say “Who am I to spend that kind of money? I am just Jen.”

Screw that tape! I am Jen! I am Jen and I deserve this.

Also, the money will come back to me. It always does. Always.

I also have faith that this ridiculous amount of money I spent for 2 nights at a hotel will help find a cure for my best buddy Blaise.

I also have faith that it will all be worked out and they will be able to easily get me a new certificate so I can indeed book those ridiculously expensive two nights.

I have a vision and I hold it in my heart.

This vision is:

Me hanging out at this Parisian hotel and writing my book. 

My nephew and all the other PWS angels never having a hunger pang again.

Money never ever ever being an issue for me.

I have faith in these visions.

In the meantime, check out this hotel. And keep me away from galas, vodka, silent auctions and Brazilian blowouts.

Just a bit of info on PWS: Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a genetic disorder that occurs in approximately one out of every 15,000 births. PWS affects males and females with equal frequency and affects all races and ethnicities. PWS is recognized as a common genetic cause of childhood obesity.

PWS was first described by Swiss doctors Andrea Prader, Alexis Labhart and Heinrich Willi in 1956 based on the clinical characteristics of nine children they had examined. The common characteristics defined in the initial report included small hands and feet, abnormal growth and body composition (small stature, very low lean body mass and early onset childhood obesity), hypotonia at birth, insatiable hunger, extreme obesity and intellectual disability.

Please please please vote daily on this video to help get PWS to the White House so we can eliminate these challenges once and for all.
Here it is.
It will make all the difference in the world.

Renay Compere, far left, owns Pop Physique in Santa Monica where I host my workshops and has a son with PWS

Daily Manifestation Challenge

The DMC: Daily Manifestation Challenge. FAITH.

October 13, 2011

Ah, Faith.

You gotta have it.

 

 

I cheated on my fears, broke up with my doubts, got engaged to my faith and now I’m marrying my dreams.

Today’s Daily Manifestation Challenge is about Faith. I actually asked a friend who is going through a hard time what my challenge should be today. In particular, her baby boy is dying from Tay-Sachs Disease.

She gave me a list.

I will slowly work through the list. Day by day. As she does.

So she is struggling with Faith.

I get it. I struggle with it a lot too.

Wikipedia says:

Faith is trust, hope and belief in the goodness, trustworthiness or reliability of a person, concept or entity. It can also refer to beliefs that are not based on proof (e.g. faith that a child will grow up to be a good person) . Religious faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition, “things will turn out well in the end,” can be enjoyed in the present and secured in the future. The concept of faith is a broad one: at its most general ‘faith’ means much the same as ‘trust’.

I get it: how can she trust in the Universe when her baby is being taken away from her? How could one ever have faith in anything again after that?

It’s a tough one. But the alternative is grim. If you lose faith or hope or trust or whatever word most aptly describes ‘faith’ to you, it becomes a slippery slope.

A slippery slope until you become simply a shadow of who you once were.

Take a look at your life and where faith plays a part. When do you experience faith or a lack thereof? For me, I feel faith in myself when I can clearly see that something I have said or done has helped someone have a breakthrough in their life in some small way or when one of the kids I teach yoga to with special needs learns how to Om. I feel faith in myself when I realize that I have found my bliss and the world is conspiring in my favor. I have faith in my nephew Blaise who struggles with Prader Willi Syndrome when I see how many strides he is making daily. The list goes on.

I used to think God hated me.

I decided that at a young age because a few things happened in my life that I could not comprehend. I did not understand what having faith meant for a long time. I had faith at a young age it and what good did it do? My dad still died at age 38.

I realize now that faith is renewable. At any given moment I can restore it.

I have found things that allow me to experience faith and I revel in what that feels like. I trust in things again. I allow myself to believe. Not just in myself but in human nature and kindness and love and all things that I once had lost faith in.

It is not always easy.

 

         To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
         St Thomas Aquinas quotes 

Faith and trust , in my universe, are much the same. At the moment, I am out of words to offer my dear friend Emily who is losing her baby. I do, however, have faith in her talent and humor and kindness and beauty and courage. I have faith that her book will sell and help many others who are experiencing similar grief.

Today’s Daily Challenge: You Gotta Have Faith!

In the Comment Section Below write where you have faith in your life or where you are lacking it. Where you may be struggling with faith. Or simply what Faith means to you. Can you renew your sense of faith in yourself? In love? In your career? In the Universe? In wherever it may be that you are lacking it? Can you offer someone else some glimpses into faith, someone who may be struggling? It’s not always easy, these daily Manifestation challenges. But they will get you to take a look at your life, and, if it’s applicable, make a shift or two.

Are you ready?

  
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
Mother Teresa