Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sam Kessler - Grandpa, Life Coach

Many years ago, my Mom graduated college. She had every expectation of finding a good job. However, this was in the midst of the Depression. Opportunities were scarce at best. She dreamed not only of beginning her working life, but of financially assisting her family.

When she shared her profound disappointment with her father, he chose to tell her this story, a variation of which shows up in many cultures across the globe.

Life in the Jewish shtetl challenged not only the physical body, but the soul. Everyone worked day in, day out, only to eke out the basic sustenance needed to go on. They lived in constant fear of the Kossacks and had simply their faith to turn to. At one point the situation became so bad that all the men of the shtetl convened. They formed a large circle. Into it each threw his bundle of worries and problems. Then he picked up any bundle but his own for all were certain that none could contain such troubles as his.

But an amazing thing happened. Upon opening another’s bundle, they each returned to the circle to trade back for their original. It seems that upon discovering the burdens that rested on his neighbor’s shoulders, every man realized he could better cope with his own. Each walked away with a new way to view the world and with that, his load felt a bit lighter than before.

And so my grandfather offered comfort. He asked that Mom consider the world’s “bigger picture”, have patience, faith, and hold fast to her dream. With persistence, he assured her, she would make her way in the world and her family would be strong.

Decades later, as I rode in a NYC bus at the age of 24, I felt someone staring at my wedding band. I looked up into the face of a young woman and sensed envy in her eyes. I clearly recall my thought: “If you only knew how unhappy a marriage this ring represents, you would not wish for it.” At the time I lacked experience in creating a loving relationship and my "husband” had obtained all he wanted – his green card.

It is so simple for us to project our fantasy onto a thin gold band, thinking another’s life to be much richer than our own.

Over time, I’ve learned that choice ranks among the greatest gifts we have. Catching the gold ring has no inherent meaning. Living our lives from the depths of who we really are, does.

And just as my Grandpa Sam said, when we can view the World, have gratitude, and build on our dreams, we create a life of value.


Please take a look at the preceding entry. You’ll find there a JOYFUL 3 minute, award-winning video.

If you care to, there is also an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of 3500 inner-city kids.

Kick up your heels and dance!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My son is raising money for a new film project. Please consider contributing to his efforts by clicking the ChipIn button below. It will lead you to a secure PayPal donation site. To view his most recent work, featuring 16 New Mexican tap dancers, ages 5 to 68, dancing one seamless piece of choreography that expresses each dancer's unique culture, click here: Sole Soul Sol.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Autumn in New York, and Winter, Spring, Summer...

So what's with this "Clear the path, I'm coming through" attitude in New York?

I can't tell you how often I am walking down the street and find myself face to face with Ms/Mr
whatever , exiting the diner and looking 1 way for pedestrian traffic (actually more likely just getting his bearings). Does that compute? Am I nuts? (only in a good way.)

What is that about? I mean, this happens constantly. It's almost an epidemic. I do love New York. And I just can't stand it!

Are these people so egotistical to think there's no one else out there?
Or do they think that whoever is out there will just have to make way.
Worse still, do they not even notice?

In a life of suffering on the one hand, and Eckhardt Tolle on the other, what drives people to ignore their immediate world?

I also wonder if these people are alone in their true friends, no close family, no partner.
Perhaps they've made certain limiting decisions which lead to feeling, "I am in this by myself."
Shutting down in that way produces behavior that contradicts the flow, the rhythm of New York.

Does this lifestyle sound at all familiar? I know the example is extreme, but do we sometimes experience a taste? It's right there on peoples' faces. If we don't create space for others in our worlds, i.e. NYC streets, it's possible we don't do it in our lives and then what do we have to smile about?

Is it actually about having so much disappointment in life that we slowly shrink to live within our circumstances? We keep moving our feet but are emotionally disconnected. And it all happens without the light of conscious thought. Extremely powerful feelings live way below and we
can't lay claim to them.

In the bigger picture, imagine our earth peopled by millions who exist this way...disconnected, desperate, impoverished, hungry, feelings buried. Can hatred break through?

So, in New York City, we move in our direction and don't look to see what's coming. I'm here and that's all there is. And somewhere else on the planet there's a war going on.

What questions can we ask, what actions can we take, to begin to light up the darkness?
And what will it take to get to a moment of realizing that Choice is possible. "Excuse me, can I help you with that stroller?
There is always choice.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What do I LeaveBehind?

Packing for a trip is a judgment call. A climate of 50 degrees one moment, followed by a sweeping blizzard which soon vanishes without a trace, had me puzzled. How do I pack well for a week’s worth of such weather? The shoe dilemma alone had me going. How to choose? Well, starting from my son’s directions to include a bathing suit and hiking boots, I indulged my imagination and then shut the bag. Case closed. (ouch)

The truth about me in Santa Fe encompassed a layering of moments, a circle of emotion, new visions, beauty, conversations, and realizations. It offered the opportunity to both look back and be present. I existed in the place of open vistas, cylindrical mesas, cloud-kissed mountains, and the Rio Grande…stunning in and of themselves, and metaphorically symbolizing the vastness of life’s possibilities.

Just as I could not anticipate the weather, so I flew to New Mexico with no expectations. Any activity, from sightseeing, to observing Ben’s choreography at National Dance Institute would be welcome. In fact, even a moment of hurt and humiliation – no, not with my family - provided awareness about self-care and self-expression. Under these open skies, I felt inspired to release some of the excess baggage I’d unconsciously packed alongside my 2 extra pair of jeans.

In Coaching, the concept of stepping back from the action is an invaluable tool. In life, disengaging, consciously taking the time to breathe, may allow us to notice that there is choice as concerns the next step. The thing that often trips us up is the “need” to be right. Of course we know this won’t resolve anything, but change takes time and small steps. To truly have a chance to arrive at this new place also requires our permission to make mistakes in the process.

So in this visit, I could revisit situations involving my son, knowing I’d made my share of poor choices. At times, I doubt I had the awareness that alternative behaviors were available. And yet, there stood Ben, a young adult making a huge contribution to the children in this and surrounding towns. From co-workers to parents, I was blessed to hear the strength of character they found in him, how the children adored him.

I'd traveled a distance to spend time with my son. And in so doing, I discovered for sure, that the love I'd offered my young children had indeed, been good enough.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

There was a Doctor in the House

NYC therapist brutally murdered. Perpetrator escapes. It is presumed he was victim’s patient…a basic plot for Law and Order.

Except that it happened Tuesday night in my apartment building.

Wednesday morning I jaunted down the stairs from the 4th floor to the landing and literally ran into 2 policemen. From my vantage point, a sea of men in black coats. The lobby teemed with NYC detectives and NYPD.

My friend stepped off the elevator and shared the story. What a loss to the therapist’s family, clients, to the community. A second doctor had tried to rescue her only to be met with severe injuries. His disabled wife, whose chronic illness “gave her the appearance of a drunk”, was left uninformed as to where the ambulance would deliver her husband. Mauled but conscious, he is wheeled out the door, just beside her, and she is denied information because someone judged her to be out of control.

Yesterday the murderer was apprehended. His beliefs regarding the second doctor – that he had been his therapist and was responsible for his 21 year incarceration in a mental health facility – may be totally untrue. Indeed, the female therapist was regrettably in the way of his immediate objective: to rob and injure the male. Ultimately, he wanted to force the release of his mother from a nursing home and take her out of the country, to be with her always. He’d been charged only a few days earlier with an attack on an attendant in a thwarted attempt to “rescue” her, and had been set free while awaiting trial.

When I first stepped outside Wednesday morning, cameras rolled, a reporter raised a microphone to my face: “Describe your first reaction to hearing of the murder.” She was clearly looking for drama, sensationalism, enough to drive her viewers into fear. My response included the horror, the gross injustice, sadness, and a therapist’s treacherous challenge to balance best patient care with personal safety. I left the house thinking that as Coaches it is imperative to maintain awareness of what’s showing up for the client. That we pay attention, listen to inklings. Is she basically healthy? Does coaching serve her or might therapy provide a better option at this time? Noticing new data as it emerges.

And continually Choosing.

How do we choose the reality we so wish to ignore? The fear when it shows up, the desire to run. In order to be of value to our community, we offer what we know: there’s no moving forward until we choose the situation as it is revealed. And if there is fear, what action can we take to tolerate it? Is it possible to increase our security without sacrificing our freedom?

Upon reflection, some may choose to leave.

When my 2 children, who were raised in this building, heard of the crime, they were terrified for me. My daughter’s first utterance was, “Mom, you have to get out of New York.” Fight or flight. The law of self-preservation. What could be more natural?

Yet we see over and over again just how random life can be. There is no law of complete control in life’s design. New York is my home for now. I realize there are further precautions, small steps I may take to strike an acceptable balance between my safety and my freedom.

My choice is to stay.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Give Me Back My Caterpillar

Last night I watched “Away From Her”, a bittersweet film steeped in unconditional love, betrayal, and the process of letting go.

In speaking with 2 close friends earlier in the day, I mentioned my evening plan – nesting with Gracie on a cold city night, my DVD loaded and ready. One replied: “have tissues at your side from the get-go”, while the other advised me to forego the tears and save a tree. In the end, I found the piece moving throughout, but shed tears only in the final moments.

This set of behavioral expectations is of interest to me. .. diverse reactions to identical input. And more specifically, the honest belief that we know how another will respond to a particular event. Of course in the Bigger Picture, my reaction to anything doesn’t quite make it to the cover of a newsstand magazine (for the moment). But the thought that I might predict the response of those close to me sets buzzers off in my head, reminiscent of 60’s game shows.


If your friend were stood up for a 2nd date, she would:

a. Eat a box of Oreos in bed while watching “Casablanca”.

b. Cry into the night, having already planned the wedding.

c. Change into her most adorable outfit and skip off to her local karaoke bar.

d. Settle in and pick up her favorite Jane Austen novel.

The truth is, I have no idea.

The time required for me to relinquish a present disappointment is likely connected to whatever’s going on in that fluid place inside the lighthouse of letting go.

If my best childhood friend ran off into the night with my favorite toy tractor in tow, I might feel a twinge when asked to share my grown-up toys. Once I am aware of that relationship, I can allow it to heal, and move on. Sure I loved my tractor, sure I “hated” my friend, but there’s no way Caterpillar or ancient history will dictate my thoughts and behavior now.

So, I provided my friends with a tiny surprise this week-end…how refreshing to be somewhat unpredictable.