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Articles: Sybil Magazine, 1-6

I am delighted to be writing for Sybil Magazine this year.  Once a month, I will be contributing a new article.  The first six months are posted here. This series is called “Embracing Your Heart’s Wisdom.”

Sybil Magazine is written by women in the helping professions who are located in several countries around the world.  It is a mindful, inspiring, and uplifting publication.  I am including a link to the January edition so you can sample the magazine.

Sibyl Magazine | January 2017 (Annual Premier Issue)

                                                                                                                                         

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Table of Contents:

EMBRACING YOUR HEART’S WISDOM

January:  Surviving & Thriving After a Breakup

February:  Reaching Outside the Comfort Zone

March:  Finding Peace in Uncertain Times

April:  Recognizing Family

May:  Moving Through Life Stages

June:  Finding Nature in Cement

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EMBRACING YOUR HEART’S WISDOM

January 2017

Surviving & Thriving After a Breakup                                        

By Marcia Blau, LCSW                                                  

Little girls do not daydream about that special day when they get divorced.  They save their fantasies for a much happier storyline.

The very notion of a breakup inspires feelings of failure, shame, and dismal loneliness. The key to survival is allowing these feelings to flow, and lead you to a better place. This was my lesson when separating from a 20-year marriage. Initially I was so focused on the loss of the relationship that I couldn’t see beyond that. Then the Universe pushed me to look deeper.

I was on my own with two young children when I awoke one morning to several inches of hot water throughout our apartment. A kitchen pipe had burst and ultimately destroyed all of our wood flooring. I had to pack up our entire home and move us out for five weeks. It was devastating.

As I was packing, I found a dusty old book in a drawer under my former husband’s side of the bed. It was entitled, Bad Love. OMG! The Universe was telling me that it was time to get the now stale, Bad Love out of my house. Finding this book gave meaning to the flood. I began ridding myself of any possessions that reminded me of my marriage.

When I moved back that autumn, it was no longer the home of my marital relationship. With new floors installed, I was literally standing on new ground. From there I could begin the process of reclaiming my own life.

The flood had broken my resistance to letting go. This rendered me able to mourn the significant loss of my husband with whom I had shared two decades of hopes and dreams. Sometimes the most meaningful thing one can do is crawl under the covers and cry it out. I did that. But as I found myself surviving these emotions, they ran their course.

Only then could I get to know and trust myself again. I was on a journey from marriage to single life. I needed to relearn how to hear my thoughts and feel my heartbeat. I meditated, wrote, and took long walks. I let my spirit speak, and discovered that I still had dreams of my own.

Finally, with self-trust intact, I was ready to step back into the world. This stage was all about trial and error. I threw myself into new situations with new people, to learn about where I belonged. I noticed that if I took chances and just kept moving, I would find the joy that awaited me.

Separation can be an extremely painful situation, but it also offers a substantial opportunity for personal growth. If you listen within and follow your heart’s wisdom, you will find your way to healing and rediscovering yourself.

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EMBRACING YOUR HEART’S WISDOM

February 2017

Reaching Outside the Comfort Zone

By Marcia Blau, LCSW

As my younger son was nearing high school graduation, I became haunted by the notion of my impending empty nest. For so many years as a single mother, my two sons were my main priority. The thought of suddenly being on my own felt lonely, undefined, and scary. Even worse, I knew too much to allow myself to get clingy. My best response was to do a lot of meditating, writing, and looking within. And the message I kept getting was that I needed to reach outside my comfort zone. Going to the next stage would require my moving out of the family circle and into a bigger world.

I am always amazed at how the Universe offers answers once I start asking questions. Out of the blue, I was filled with thoughts about the past. I was recalling a conversation from over 20 years before when a friend informed me that Diane from our former acting class was doing “missionary work in South Africa.” Why was this decades old memory visiting me now? I got curious and opened my computer.

An image appeared of a longhaired soulful woman…Diane! Life had taken her to Peru where she became a Master Shaman and founded a healing and conference center. At that moment my inner voice began suggesting that I was going to Peru. What was that? Years of buying school supplies and boys clothes on a credit card had rendered ample frequent flyer miles. I had fantasized a trip to Paris. But the voice insisted, “Peru!”

The next day I continued to follow my instinct. I found myself buying Diane’s memoir and signing up for Spanish lessons. Then, I contacted Diane. She warmly invited me to visit her center and participate in workshops that summer. And there was my plan to venture out into a bigger world.

Over the next few months, I vacillated between a sense of exhilaration and a sleepless panic. For part of this trip, I would be traveling alone. I tossed and turned imagining myself lost, unable to speak Spanish. Why was I doing this anyway? Yes, I needed to jolt myself out of this empty nest mindset, but Peru seemed too far out of my comfort zone.

Ultimately trusting myself won out and in August I landed in Sacred Valley. There, I reunited with Diane, met like-minded people from around the world, hiked through mountains, and did much listening within. Essentially, I began the journey of reclaiming my own life. When I returned home, I felt renewed, stronger, and ready for the next step.

Our lives are much larger than what we see. Change may inspire feelings of wanting to cling to the familiar. Yet it is the reaching for something different that leads to personal growth and freedom. Never underestimate the importance of pushing out of your comfort zone. Dare yourself. Trust the Universe. Down the road you will wake in a much more comfortable and interesting place.

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EMBRACING YOUR HEART’S WISDOM

March 2017

Finding Peace in Uncertain Times

By Marcia Blau, LCSW

Lately I have been finding myself hugging strangers after engaging in heartfelt conversations on the bus, in the supermarket, and at the dentist’s office. We are living through a shared time of heightened global uncertainty. For many of us, world politics have infiltrated our personal reality, triggering an inner monologue of doubt and worry. In response we have been talking, hugging, and protesting. As a psychotherapist, uncertainty is a topic I like to address with my clients. How do you move through situations in which you feel helpless and unsure of what is next?

In order to gain relief when confronted with frightening circumstances, it is helpful to get in touch with your sense of hope. There is energy and forward movement in hope. Often my own solution is to look at my worst possibility and make peace with it. If I can see myself surviving the worst, I feel empowered and more ready for whatever happens.

Sometimes reaching out to other people is the answer. Just knowing that one is not alone may be enough to take the edge off a scary situation. That is at the heart of my recent interactions with strangers. And it was no surprise for me to learn that there is healing power in hugging. We give each other strength when we hold each other…mentally, physically and emotionally.

People also get their strength by finding the humor. Did you know that laughter is healing and can be used to boost the immune system? Journalist Norman Cousins was known for laughing his way back to life. In the 1960s he ingested large doses of vitamin C as he watched comedy films, and successfully healed himself of terminal cancer. Is it any wonder why Saturday Night Live is doing so well this year?

Often, simply looking inward through meditation or prayer is the best remedy for doubt and fear. Withdrawing into stillness, gives us distance from outer reality. Inside ourselves we can form a more peaceful relationship with the events surrounding our lives. It is also where we can get in touch with our beliefs, creativity and solutions.

But one thing is definite: committing to your fear will only make uncertainty more disorienting. How we focus on a situation determines what we get back from it. Therefore, if you find yourself fixated on world events or anything else that feels disquieting, search for your best way to quiet the beast. Reach out to others, meditate, go for a long walk…or perhaps write a magazine article! Do anything that puts you in touch with your strength and endurance. With that in place, you can regain your sense of balance.

What is happening in the world now may go on for a while. It is important that we continue reaching out to each other and empowering ourselves. And on the chance that you find yourself in deep conversation with someone on the bus, don’t forget to give that person a hug!

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EMBRACING YOUR HEART’S WISDOM

April 2017

Recognizing Family

 By Marcia Blau, LCSW

It was a century ago when my Grandpa Louie boarded a ship headed for America to reunite with his older brother. His ten-year-old sister, Manya, had been running behind him. “Take me with you,” she implored. But, of course, he couldn’t. His last glance back at his life in Ukraine held the sight of his little sister on the wharf, sobbing. This image would haunt him for many decades.

Grandpa’s story played in my head as I stood in Kennedy Airport, last September, awaiting the arrival of my cousin Boris. It was profound that 100 years later, Louie’s granddaughter was there to meet Manya’s grandson. Several of my relatives, starting with my grandparents in the 1960s, had visited Ukraine to see Manya and her family. By 2007, after decades of trying, her entire family had migrated to Israel, Canada, and the U.S. And in 2016, I stood with my sister-in-law waiting for the flight from Toronto.

As newly arrived passengers filled the room, I recognized that man with my grandpa’s slight build and angular face…Boris! And then there was the melodious sound of that Ukrainian accent. It drew me back to the days of Grandpa telling the tales of his early life.

My brother drove us to the quaint Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn where Brukha, Boris’ mother, and his sister Eugenia live. This area is like a small Ukrainian town, a perfect residence for two women who don’t speak English. As I stepped into their well-kept, minimally furnished apartment, Brukha and I set eyes on each other. Without hesitation, we fell into each other’s arms. This was Manya’s 90-year-old daughter. I knew her from my grandfather, and from heartfelt instinct.

We spent a blessed afternoon together. Boris was our interpreter as we spoke about our families, shared our histories, and acknowledged the unlikelihood of having this time together. When Brukha took out a photo album, I gasped at the pictures of her family with my parents and grandparents. These same photos had been in my album for years. Later I wondered how my relationship with Eugenia would have been had we grown up together. Would we be close? How would my life have turned out had I been raised in Ukraine? All afternoon I was immersed in thoughts about the difference of our cultures yet the sameness of our cores.

Since that Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn, I have thought about my deep bond to my cousins. I was surprised by how much I cared about these people whom might never have come into my life.

If we were to draw the lines, we would find that we are related to every other human being on this planet. While we are often more inclined to notice our differences, we are actually part of a large human family. Ultimately we are all world citizens. And we are enriched when we take the time to recognize and embrace each other.

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EMBRACING YOUR HEART’S WISDOM

May 2017

Moving Through Life Stages

By Marcia Blau LCSW

I was by my mother’s side, watching her sleep, as she faded into the last hours of her 92 years. This woman who had breathed life into me was now taking her final gasps.   We had come full circle with each other.

My mother had been in a three-tier residence for almost a decade. Toward the end, severe dementia had reduced her life to nonsensical interactions, agitated outbursts, and hours of staring out the window. Friends who learned of her condition offered sympathy.   But I would insist, “This is simply her time to be in this place.”

When she passed, I was relieved that she had finally found her exit door. My mother had lived a long and rich life. My brother and I were both at peace with her death. At her funeral, we gave upbeat eulogies, sharing humorous stories about her being, among other things, a grandmother, a world traveler, and a terrible cook. Our aim was to celebrate her life.

Afterwards, people approached me with long faces and feelings about their own mothers. Somehow I had become a Rorschach test for their grief. The tentative touching, probing eye contact, and forlorn sighing that went along with their condolences left me wanting to scream, “She wasn’t 16 and she didn’t die in a motorcycle accident!” But instead, I remained silent.

Where did we get such fixed ideas about aging, illness, and death? My mother’s dementia appeared in her late 80s. It was a bitter truth that was age appropriate. I accepted it as part of her long transition out of life. Her death was the next inevitable step. At last, she would have peace. This was how I framed it.

Yet many people relate to the natural process of aging as an unfortunate malady. And death, even in old age, is seen as loss instead of completion. I am sure most of us would have more ease if we could accept that we are all moving through life stages.   We are simply at different points on the time continuum.

As a young woman, I felt I didn’t have society’s permission to grow old. Around the time I hit 40, friends’ compliments turned into comments about “holding up well,” and looking “good for my age.” Is it any wonder I moisturized myself into an alpha-hydroxy-collagen stupor? Yet time is persistent, and I eventually learned to laugh at my laugh lines. Now I am intent on living with a sense of agelessness.

Ultimately the place I was best able to let go of these judgments was in my children’s eyes.   When they were young, I used to love giggling and jumping in puddles with them. One evening I was cuddling with my older son who was about eight years old. Suddenly he pulled back from me and asked, “Mom, how come you’re not like a regular adult?” I felt a surge of joy as I hugged him and whispered, “Because I don’t wanna be!

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EMBRACING YOUR HEART’S WISDOM

June 2017

Finding Nature in Cement

By Marcia Blau

I confess that I have lived in homes where I never, not even once, used the shower. That’s how much I love taking baths! Growing up on the sixth floor of a New York City apartment building, the water in my bathtub was a way for me to access nature. It was pure joy to splash around in my own personal pond.

As an adult city dweller, I have learned to embrace nature where I can find it. I wake to the sound of birds chirping, I gather berries to make jam, and I tend to a garden of plants, flowers and even a few vegetables. Of course, the birds are my pet parakeets, the berries come from the supermarket, and the garden is on my terrace. Nonetheless, this urban farmer is pleased to be getting what she needs.

It is meaningful for me to know that everything I require is around me…if I reach for it. All too often, I have walked into situations carrying a satchel of prejudgments in my psyche. I’m sure this resulted in people I didn’t meet, experiences that didn’t enrich me, and places I lived that never became home.

A wise friend once told me, “When you meet someone who is acting like a jerk, wait. You probably haven’t yet seen that person’s best side.” I learned that when I remain open, there are delicious surprises to be found.

At age 19, I was taken to the opening night party of an Off-Broadway show. I was in the blue jeans stage of life and found myself surrounded by attractive people in cocktail dresses and sports jackets. How was I ever going to mingle in this crowd? In defeat, I simply sat down on the floor. Soon a young man sat next to me. I was delighted. I had a friend, an ally. Then two more people came, then three…within 20 minutes half the party was on the floor, talking and laughing. At the end of the night I was proud of myself for staying and finding the people beneath the glamour.

It is important to hang in there even when a situation seems unyielding. That stance was crucial when my older son was born with substantial health issues. Help from the medical profession fell short of what he needed. As a mother, I had to persist. I searched for healers and other practitioners. Over time, we were able to navigate his course to wellness.

It takes time and effort to chisel a situation into a desired form. That is the work of creating the life you want. It is the attentive listening to someone you care about, the many evolutions in your professional endeavors en route to mastery, and the stretching of your being to become seasoned in your own existence.

It took me years to find nature in my cement city. Now I feel surrounded by it. What are you seeking that you strain to see?   Breathe, believe, and look again.                                                                                                        ______________________________________________________________________