October 31, 2013

Pivotal Moments.

“Life is just a series of moments. If you miss the moments, you miss your life.”

~ Robin Sharma

It’s been said that at the end of our earthly incarnation, our lives flash before our eyes. Memories of experiences; love and loss, pain and pleasure shake and shimmy before us, doing a seductive dance with fingers beckoning calling us to relive them.

If we look back with longing, we will be singing “Those were the days.” If we gaze over our shoulders, attempting to escape our past at breakneck speed, we may miss opportunities for learning.

Sitting with clients in my counseling practice, I hear stories with a similar theme.

These folks who are courageously facing multiple addictions tell of  flashes in time when they have an awakening that kicks their butt into recovery; a reckoning that shouts emphatically ” Enough! I can’t do this (drugs, alcohol, gambling, over-spending, lying) anymore!” And at least for that instant, they put down the substance or behavior in favor of having a better life. They may over time, pick up again….and again…and again and that’s when a reminder of their strength and resilience comes in handy.

I tell them that they have survived everything that has ever happened  to them and can survive this as well. It always starts with a decision that their lives are of their own making. I also tell them that they need to do it for themselves but need not do it by themselves.

When I lived in South Florida back in the 1990’s, I noticed an interesting phenom that all these years later, I use as a metaphor when I teach and counsel. When new little palm trees are planted in the sandy soil, plywood surrounds them, tethered to the ground with rope. The purpose is to provide support until they are firmly rooted. When that happens, the boards are taken away and the tree stands on its own.

I remind my clients that in the beginning of their journey, they need more support than they will later on. Smiles usually light the faces of my ‘baby palm trees’ as they really get the message. That is what I think of as a pivotal moment. Not just the ‘aha!’ that arises when we have a think link between one concept and another, but the understanding that an event or awakening that occurred years ago is useful now.

Perhaps I noticed the palm tree dynamic and the seed was planted so that it would become a therapeutic tool that I could present to folks in what was then ‘the future’. I see it as seed planting that bursts forth into abundant crop days or decades later.

In 1986, I experienced major serial pivotal moments.

Early that year, I planned on traveling to what was then the Soviet Union, with a group of healers and teachers, on a ‘Citizens’ Diplomacy Mission’ accompanied by Alan Cohen (author of thought provoking books such as The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Rising in Love, Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It). The purpose was so that we and our Russian companions would recognize each other as friends and not the enemies that our governments might have had us believe we were.

The trip was scheduled from October 12th-25th. Then Spirit intervened with a loud and clear message. A gender neutral Voice spoke and informed me that I was not to go to Russia then and that I needed to be in Philadelphia.

Having studied psychology and social work, I was certain that I knew the difference between Divine Guidance and psychosis. I responded “But this is the trip of a lifetime. I will be spending my 28th birthday in the home of some of my ancestors.” And the Voice repeated. “But I don’t live in Philadelphia.” And the Voice repeated. “But I already put down my deposit and told people I was going. They’ll think I’m crazy for cancelling.” And the Voice repeated. “You’re not going to let me off the hook, are you?”

“Nope,” answered the cosmic jokester.

I did as instructed and put the trip on the back burner.

On October 24th, the day before I would have been returning from my trip, I found myself in a car, driving with friends from my home in Bucks County, PA, an hour south, to Philadelphia to hear Ram Dass speak on the subject of Seva (Sanskrit for ‘Selfless Service’). I sat, enraptured as this man waxed poetic and philosophical. Although I don’t remember the words he spoke, I recognized a fellow traveler, kindred spirit in this ‘member of the tribe’ in which I was raised; a Jew whose spiritual practice became eclectic.

During the intermission, my friend Ute Arnold; artist and body psychotherapist stood next to a blue eyed, curly red-haired and bearded man. “This is Michael Moser,” she said as he held out his hand to shake mine. “He’s signed up for the workshop you’re giving in two weeks.” I was  to be leading a class called The Love Yourself Playshop at a conference at a nearby college. Had I gone to Russia, I would have been speaking about my trip and it was unlikely that Michael would have been interested in attending. I returned the greeting, spoke briefly and trotted off to  commune with others.

Two weeks later, we were sitting opposite each other in a circle with the other participants. I was talking about the importance of eye contact in communication and good student that he was, his blue eyes lasered right into my green ones. I found myself sliding down in my seat, thinking “What’s going on here?” At the time, I was in a relationship (albeit rather dysfunctional) and was not looking for a new partner…or so I thought.

A few weeks later, we were an item and on May 2nd  of 1987, we were wed in an outdoor ceremony in Peace Valley Park in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The overcast, chilly day contrasted our ebullient emotions and yet, as I look back, it was foretelling of some of the fluctuating moods of our marriage over the 12 years that it continued until Michael died on December 21, 1998 of Hepatitis C while awaiting a liver transplant.

A year after we were married, we launched a magazine called Visions that appealed to cultural creative and LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) readers. For 10 years, I had the joy of interviewing movers and shakers including Wayne Dyer, Shirley MacLaine, Dan Millman, Marianne Williamson, Debbie Ford, Neale Donald Walsch, Leonard Peltier, Olympia Dukakis, Lilias, Bernie Siegel, Deepak Chopra and yes, Ram Dass (who I referred to as our yenta -Yiddish for ‘matchmaker’)

Over the past 20-some years, I interviewed him three times…twice before and once since his stroke. Each time, I felt as if I was graced. After  we sold the magazine and Michael passed, I became a freelance journalist with a portfolio that has expanded dramatically.

A dream into reality interview took place in 2008 when I had an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama as he spoke in Philadelphia, 22 years after my meeting with another Holy Being in the City of Brotherly Love.

The day that Michael made his transition from this life to the next, the Voice returned (having made a few more appearances in the interim) with another set of instructions: “Call the seminary and ask to finish what Michael started.” I knew just what that meant, since he had enrolled in The New Seminary to become an interfaith minister a year earlier. I had assisted him in his studies; reading to him when he couldn’t concentrate, quizzing him and typing his papers because he had neuropathy in his hands and couldn’t feel the keys with his fingers. I had no interest in becoming ordained myself at the time.

A few days after his funeral, I contacted the dean and asked to join the class. She told me that I was welcome to graduate with Michael’s class on two conditions.

The first was that I was doing it for myself too and not just for him and the second was that I needed to do both years’ work simultaneously or I could complete the following year. I did it in six months and in June of 1999, I walked down the aisle of The Cathedral of St. John The Divine in 90-something degree temps, drenched in sweat under the white robe that I had donned moments before.

Since then, I have married hundreds of couples, offered countless baby blessings and memorial services, with a few house blessings tossed in for good measure.

Another set of seeds planted, since had I gone to Russia, the meeting between Michael and I would not likely have taken place and I would be living an alternate reality. I shake my head in bewildered awe as I consider the other ‘meant to be’ meetings that occurred as a result. I had gone to school for psychology and social work and had not considered a career in journalism and yet, here I am all these years later, immersed in word soup, savoring all of its redolent flavors.

Recently, I had another cosmically coincidental experience that falls into the pivotal moments category.

In 2010, I was flying to Ft. Lauderdale for my mother’s funeral. She had entered into hospice care in May of that year and we had numerous conversations about what she thought would happen when she died. At the time she said she wasn’t sure. I asked her to come back and tell me when she did find out. She smiled and told me that she would return as a butterfly.  After I received the news that  she had passed,  I was on my way to the airport; transported by my cousin. Ahead of us was an SUV with, of all things, a butterfly sticker on the back window. This was one of many awe and wonder butterfly sightings that have occurred since then.

Shortly after, I boarded the plane; feeling numb and attempting to hold my emotions at bay so as not to attract too much attention, a flight attendant, with spiky red hair passed by and commented on a book I had spine up on my lap. It was called Glad No Matter What and it was about living fully in spite of loss. “Oh, I love SARK!,” she exclaimed. (For those who don’t know, that is the pseudonym/acronym for Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy; colorfully creative Living Juicy artist, speaker and author.) I offered to loan Jewelee the book during the flight for her to peruse. We talked for quite awhile and bonded over many things, including the dragonfly (close cousin to the butterfly) tattoo that she had hitched her skirt up to reveal on her thigh. She had gotten it in honor of a dear friend who had died.

Since then, she and I have remained close friends.

A few weeks ago,  our connection became a link between Jewelee and another long time friend. Brian had just moved cross country to take a new job. Within a few days, his father, who had been ill with cancer, died. He was at a loss for how to get back home for his dad’s service. Angel Jewelee swooped in and saved the day, arranging for him to get a ticket at an affordable price. I am convinced that one of the reasons she and I met three years ago was so that they could touch each others’ lives now.

Today I was on the phone with a new friend who had hosted a Halloween party this past weekend. Within a  short period of time, we realized we had many areas of our lives overlap, including the fact that she is also a magazine publisher for whom I will now be writing and that we have friends in common, besides the one who invited me to the party. I am going to be the yenta for her and yet another friend.

Who knows whether our paths would have crossed if not for this opportunity.

One of my favorite mental meanderings has me questioning daily whether some things happen at random or are by soul contract/mutual consent before we land on this planet. How far back does the Hansel and Gretel Breadcrumb Trail wind?

Pivotal moments feel like the feather in the movie Forrest Gump that floats and drifts and lands where it is Divinely designed to touch down.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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