cry, laugh, cry, repeat

There’s lots to cry about.

Trump – is he role-playing his wildest psychodrama fantasies? My heart weeps with fear.

People – promising their services, then doing nothing. Rug pulled out from under my feet.

Family – pitching in to support my parents in their hour of absolute need, while I’m far away with no real ability to be doing anything. How far, how heart-rending.

But laughter? Of course!

Bill Maher with his weekly: “What did he do now?!” segment pointing out the satirical absurdity of Trump’s doings for this past week. He manages to convert outrage to laughter of the bewildered sort.

People: When the one you count on doesn’t come through and others offer understanding, empathy. Funny how we forgive even though we’re f*cked.

Family: All the familial touches that make life worth living for my parents: bagels from the best bakeryBagels-bagels-and-more-bagels-at-St-Lawrence-Market.jpg

sugarless pie from the famous St. Lawrence Market, a colourful rollator that works for all shapes, sizes, genders. It all makes me smile.

Cry again

Wait a minute! What have I just admitted to? Insane USA president playing with fire. Is there anything in my power that I can do to change that fact? Helpless, I am.

People: If others forgive someone, based on liking them, no matter how little that person has actually done to fulfill their promises, then what can I do? Helpless, I am.

Family: Can I get up and leave to visit my folks? I could, but is it wise? Frustration grows as I wonder. Helpless!

yet, a day and a half and I’ll know more. The tears may slide, and then I’ll be stronger for the wait.

Laughter again

It all comes down to releasing emotions. Might as well laugh.

but, then again….

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Cry, laugh, cry….

 

Puppet Talk: based on other therapies

Puppet Talk

It stems from Expressive Therapy, the notion that through expression, we are well on the way to dealing with our past.

It’s also  based on NLP techniques to help de-traumatize one still trapped in the thralls of major trauma. The technique is to offer a buffer zone, a safe distancing from past events in our lives in order to view them as if we were watching a movie.

This is also psychodrama, a technique that offers us the opportunity to recreate life events as if we were directing theatre. We cast important characters in the scene, including ourselves, and we coach them in saying the sentences as we recall them being said. We position them just as they were at the time. We direct the scene, write the script, and do coaching to make sure that the events are portrayed as they need to be.

Then, if need be, we can zoom into a moment, expand it, slow it down. We can even rearrange characters, re-write the script, so that we can experience the satisfaction of closure. With understanding and often a big smile, we are free to move on.

Each of these techniques offer the storyteller a way to deal with personal history.

Share your story. (What story?)

Everyone has a story. There’s always a history behind the present moment. How you got to where you currently sit, stand, recline. When it began. What happened before that. And then what happened…

We can recall moments filled with details and colours and sounds. Some of them may be haphazard. Some may have been predetermined and cast into our DNA by our grandparents or their grandparents. If we consider all that, that too is our story.

It seems reasonable that when asked to share your story, there must be something you could say.

But, when I was asked, I discovered something else. What story? What have I done that when examined from a bird’s eye view looks or sounds like a story? I had lived through events, but were they interesting? Did they create a story-line? I didn’t see it.

Escape route 101: I asked my partner to tell me his story. I  as interviewer could happily record his beginning, middle and end. “What’s your story?” I asked him. “Tell me what makes you who you are – the events, the encounters that brought you here.”

He answered: “I have no story.”

I tried re-framing the question. His words came out the same. No. No story, here.  Now, I know he has a story. He has lived a life of experiences and relationships that could fill books.

So, what makes it hard to look at our lives and pick out the moments that when lined up would ring authentic and truly represent our path. Moments that when put on a page would offer material for a professional edit and a click of the publish button.

I know that, in the past, if an interested other has asked me what brought me to this moment, I’ve had lots to talk about, things that sounded unique and interesting. Why were those times different from being asked to listen to myself, and write?

The difference was plain. Then I had an audience. I could gear what I said to the look of interest (or lack of) in the gaze of my listener/s.

An audience. I could speak to the audience. Just like on stage or in a classroom.  Instinctively, I’d find the light in their eyes and be encouraged.

So, I came up with an idea. This idea isn’t new to me, in fact it was my original plan when I first came to Israel. The idea is simple: Puppet Talk. Let a puppet tell the story. Let a puppet narrate and if need be, bring on important characters to be arranged onstage. Let the puppet show the small scenes of real life, in shameless accuracy, complete with blunders and embarrassment. Let the puppet express it all to provide clarity to past events that happened in a tumult of emotion or social upheaval, but which stick out in our minds: those events that we remember as pivotal in our route through life.

Let the puppet do the talking so that you can stand back and watch the story of your life from a comfortable distance.

This is the idea.

When I ask myself leading questions like:

What made you come to Israel?

What made you stay?

I think back and offer a phrase or a sentence. ‘It was the smell of orange blossoms.’

“I didn’t feel so short here.”

Yet was it truly so simple? Had I left a life in Canada for a new life in a strange land, just because of the fragrance of orange blossoms? Or that other people were short and I felt physically at home? Or the joy in meeting artists, musicians, philosophers at every corner? In the supermarket, in the office of the real estate agent, or with the vegetable vendor who traded us big green Granny Smith apples for the luscious guava from our tree. Those apples were juiced, warmed and served with cinnamon during a cold winter when we didn’t have money for heat.

There are questions that can be answered with a sniff of cinnamon or orange blossoms. Words hardly do them justice. So, why use puppets? Because the puppet can provide the distance and the voice for an emotion that might be difficult to express. The puppet seldom cries, but often shows empathy. Puppets can deal with life’s absurdities and still radiate patience and understanding.

Puppet talk. An idea that needs pursuing. What is my story?  Let’s see!

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off to a hilltop

My friend, C, used to tell me that in her bedside nightstand, she keeps a little kit. Inside there’s a good book she’s dying to read, suntan lotion, a bathing suit, flip flops and a towel.

She keeps the kit for that one moment when there’s no choice; when there’s no hesitation. That moment is when she’ll grab her kit and head out to the beach. For a day or two. If she has her charge card in her wallet, the required stay is open-ended.

That little bedside ‘get out of jail free’ option has been my vicarious secret for many years. When I would exercise that option was an inside joke, within the firm belief that I was still doing some good where I was and that the sun and the beach could live without me for a while.

Something’s shifted. I’m looking at my own escape plan.  A retreat. A permanent retreat in Ein Dor with Tovana, in Plum Village with the Tibetan Buddhists. In my room with my meditation application. In my puppet workshop shed with my contact cement, paint and foam rubber.

Making a dignified run for it. Away from work. Away from teaching. Away from the bureaucracy that surrounds everything I do. The receipts, the accounts, the checking in and out. The computer programs, the bells that tell me when I can rest, walk, eat, pee.

An elegant tip of the hat as I blow a silent kiss to a machine that cranks out papers to sign while I am trying to connect my inner chi to the chi of countless pupils or teachers who are unaware of the changes of chi, or the empathy that is there for the taking.

The photo of the monastery on a hilltop. The snapshot of a pristine cell with bed and window. A place to meditate. Silent small meals. Early rising, early retiring. Others who also search for something inside that longs to grow in a separate daily routine.

A shift from a clock. A shift into a real flow of time.

This world that begins with a bedside kit – to grab and to go. My kit: a collection of books. My skin cream, my water bottle, some fruit and vegetables for the way.

Then it gets tricky. My phone. My charger. I need to be in touch. My partner. I love him. My children? My grand-child? This kit isn’t large enough.

Do I take the train or a bus? Do I need a ride to the station?

Maybe just my bike. I’ll get as far as I get and then breathe.

On the hilltop in my mind.

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turning up the chi

Journal of an English teacher, meditation teacher, puppeteer

Oct 29

After a nice Sukkot vacation, school has resumed. First day shock slowly gave way to good times for all. Second day resumption saw me bringing in some puppets and playing ‘Creep’ to introduce the theme of being an outsider.

We’re going to study Ray Bradbury’s story “All Summer in a Day”. This wonderful story takes place in a future school in Venus, where rain lets up for only 2 hours every seven years. One young pupil named Margot still remembers her life on Earth where the sun was commonplace. When she shares her memories, the other pupils can’t deal. They’re jealous, they’re disbelieving and they bully her.

She, the outsider, suffers their cruelty. (The ultimate cruelty, they —spoiler alert—- lock her away so that she completely misses the 2 hour sunshine.)

How can I turn up my own pupils’ empathy? How can I help them feel Margot’s predicament and more, towards other victims of bullying?

I began the topic asking them to look up the definition of the word ‘bullying’. Then I asked if there was anyone in the room who hadn’t experienced being an outsider. If there was a person among us who didn’t know what it was to be different, new, not a part of the majority. No one could say that they had never felt being the ‘weirdo’, as the song ‘Creep’ puts it.

I gave my own experience of being an outsider when I was young – way shorter than all the other kids, younger than the others, and my black hair, curly on dry days, frizzy in humidity. It seemed like all the other girls were tall with long blonde hair. Plus, I was the only Jewish kid in my class for many years.  The only one who didn’t celebrate Christmas or Easter. I helped friends learn their catechism, but I never participated in their first Communion. Outsider.

Outsiders. We find our way.

We become writers. Actors. Puppeteers. We are the musicians. Artists. Or readers. We retreat inwardly. Or become highly extroverted. We are the comedians.

Fat or thin. We find our way. We become what we become. We survive. If we find other outsiders, we can form clubs or secret societies.

Discovering one another, we bloom with new energy, find new impetus to be creative or  proud to be an outsider.

And now, I ask: how can I set up a situation for pupils to celebrate their own energy? How can I turn up the chi in the room?

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Reflecting on doings and beings

Looking back at this teaching and studying year, it seems like a lot has happened. A lot of doings. A lot of events.

Puppetry

Art days

Parties

Web chats

And studying

Buddhism via a few courses

Positive Psychology

Personal Resilience

In Memory – appreciating the lives of those who perished

Touring around Israel – inspecting the sites of the stories of the Bible

A School Twinning Course

Memory taught with examples from movies

Learning to Learn

Finding Happiness and Fulfillment

So many courses

I learned a lot

I listened to Mindfulness Summits.

I wrote poetry

I submitted to magazines

I taught mindfulness to grade 8 students

I led meditation sessions on my kibbutz

I led students in a new digital project and learned a new online platform

I narrated a film and then another.

And by simply being

I became a grandmother and discovered that life takes on a new super tingle just by that one switch of circumstance.

I began to wonder if I really want to continue my life as it is. Do I want to really live here? Do I want to change my daily activities? What makes me feel good? How much do I want to interact with others and if I could choose, which others?

Do I want to work with those older than me?

Or younger?

Do I want to write? And what do I want to write?

Is it time for me to reconsider living far away and devoting my time to painting, being, meditating

Or perhaps a retreat once a year is enough

I reflect on what brings the most smiles to my face. The moments fly into focus: when I taught puppetry. Helping kids create their puppets from their own designs. Helping them prepare a stage. Offering them my time and more time when they seriously wanted to work on their play.

Smiles when I met brilliant pupils who were open with me and shared themselves. Smiles when I worked on art projects and spoke eye-to-eye with young people.

Many such meetings and much good feeling was derived. These special moments of heart meeting heart are what make my life. As always. I remember from a very young age, the vibration of these precious moments when pretense is stripped away and a glimpse of understanding is shared.

Reflection on how to maximize such moments brings me into further deliberation.

As I pause on this 18th day of June.

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Are there less desirable side effects to Meditation?

As the mindfulness movement becomes more and more trendy, there are studies focusing on possible concerns.

What happens when a person sits in silence for hours at a time, when that person sticks to it no matter what emotional state s/he might be experiencing? What happens when an ‘unstable’ personality is faced with the idea of noticing mental activity or unwanted emotions. What happens when that person is unsupervised or offers no hint that there might be some kind of danger when participating in a retreat that continues for days on end?

There are studies being conducted and studies show that not everyone is equipped to deal with vypassana retreats.

Reminds me of the studies that showed that not everyone can deal with intense walkathons, fasts, or the intensity of high achievement in academics. Not everyone can slide through a new experience and come out shining.

Should there be a disclaimer when a meditator registers for a Silent Retreat? Eventually, there will be. A registrant will have to know that just like in yoga when the instructor reminds us to pay attention to our body, not to over-extend, so will the facilitators at a retreat. One will need to be aware that the mental and emotional stretch of hours upon hours of meditation might bring about side effects. One will need to be ready and able to judge if it’s cool to continue or if a short break is needed.

You might be interested in listening to this podcast given by Dr. Willoughby Britton on The Dark Side of Dharma about research being conducted.

Dr. Willoughby Britton

Thanks, Dr. Britton. The more we engage in an activity, the more facets we will encounter.