Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Search of...a prayer for the day

I've been praying, meditating, and visualizing every day lately. I could tell you it's for my next book, or as a scientific experiment, but the truth is it is to change my life from the inside out. I don't think real change is possible without that, nor do I think you can accomplish much of anything on a grand scale if you're missing one of these three elements - the asking, the receiving, the seeing.

I am not picky about where I draw my inspiration. It can be a psalm, a song, a preacher, or a rock star. It doesn't really matter to me because every encounter is a divine one. So for today I'm going to paraphrase a blessing I read yesterday from Joel Osteen and send it out into the world.

Today you are strong and courageous.
Today you are full of talent, creativity and wisdom.
Today you can accomplish your God-given dreams.
Today you walk in divine health.
Today you have favor with every person you meet.
Today everything you touch is going to prosper and succeed.
Today the seeds of greatness that are on the inside of you will grow stronger and stronger.
Today hidden treasure is about to burst forth and bring you to new seasons of increase, new seasons of favor, and new seasons of God's blessings.
Today you renounce every negative word ever spoken over you and break its power.
Today you and I receive this truth and boldly walk forward in victory.

Thanks for stopping by. Peace and blessings to you.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Search pre-hurricane blog

I've driven through a blizzard, survived the floods of Nashville a little over a year ago, and now am awaiting a hurricane's arrival in New York. At some point you really do have to start believing that whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Well, that and life's too short to give up potato chips entirely. (A friend of mine had the good sense to buy the double-stuffed Oreos in case we're doomed to the hereafter. I had no such foresight.)

The candles are ready, the flashlights have batteries, the cupboards are stocked and now we wait. While waiting, I thought it a good time to mention how much I appreciate my relatives and friends in other parts of the country checking in. There is some kind of comfort in knowing you have the prayers of others on your side. I don't take that lightly. Nor do I take for granted the many people my life is so blessed to have in it. All this waiting seems a good time to give thanks for the vast amount of goodness I have known.

I was thinking I should probably use this down time to be productive and clean out a closet or something. Then I thought, if this is the big one, do I really want my last time on earth to be spent cleaning a closet? These are the things that run through your mind, at least mine, anyway. So I'm going to read for a while, I think. I've got stacks of books and Oprah magazines just begging to be read so my life can improve. Ah yes, that seems optimistic - I'll throw myself into self improvement. Oh, how I wish I had those Oreos instead.

To all my fellow east coasters - Godspeed and stay safe. To the rest of you out there - many thanks  for your good thoughts. I'm feeling the love.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In Search love affair with Steven Tyler

I'm having a love affair with Steven Tyler. No, not a real one. I'm reading his memoir Does the Noise in my Head Bother You? And the answer is - no, Steven, it doesn't.

Reading his book is a bit like watching a train wreck - you want to look away, but you just can't. It was at the same time (which is quite a feat) riveting, fascinating, horrifying, appalling, inspiring, captivating, and nothing short of completely entertaining.

If genius is its own form of insanity, then Steven Tyler delivers both the profound and the crazy in equal measure. And his passion is contagious. He's a walking encyclopedia of songs, and his knowledge isn't limited to the genre that made him famous. His tastes are eclectic and his influences meld into what makes him a force to be reckoned with in entertainment.

Lest you think I started out as a huge Aerosmith fan, I must dispel that myth from the getgo. I can't name five songs of theirs. So how did I get to be a Steven Tyler fan in my forties? And why did I choose to read nearly four hundred pages about a guy whose drug use has conceivably destroyed more brain cells than I will ever have? Well, the answer is kind of simple - he's from my hometown of Yonkers, New York, and we went to the same high school (which he got kicked out of). I wanted to know what the trajectory was that got him from Yonkers, New York to rock 'n' roll super stardom, because, believe me, it's not an obvious transition.

Not to over analyze here, but the take away from his book in answer to that question is - have a very clear vision of what you want for yourself, learn everything you can about it, and then don't stop until you get there.

It sounds simple, and it may be simple, but the one thing it isn't is easy. Unlike the kids he judges on American Idol, Steven Tyler has something our current crop of young performers don't anymore - seasoning. It is not easy to play every dive bar, restaurant, barn, hoedown, whatever for years and years. Long before you have your own roadies, there is schlepping involved, and a lot of driving, sleeping in cars, going hungry, and assorted other glamorous things that earn you the right to have the four decade career that Steven Tyler has had. And though the perks be many once you get there, celebrity doesn't come without a heavy price it exacts for the privilege. So while most of us cannot relate to the degree of excess that much of this book describes in great detail, given the underlying current of reality pulsing through it, most of us wouldn't choose this life even if we could have it. It might be fun for five minutes, but it's a roller coaster ride anyone who is faint of heart would be screaming to get off of.

If there is something enviable that I took away from this read, it is the bravery, reckless abandon, and fearlessness with which Steven Tyler seems to have lived his life. While it's true that he is not the poster child for clean living, he is the poster child for being completely authentic, and for as wild as that may come across at times, it is an admirable quality to be sure. To be true to yourself as you walk through life takes a kind of courage we don't often see today. And it is a beautiful thing. So if the eccentric clothes and long hair put you off, then so be it. We express ourselves in ways both big and small. I view it as another layer of creativity in the many layers of a complex and artistic soul. We could all stand to be a little less like sheep, even in how we dress.

While I can't say that his memoir will win him any literary awards, I can and will say that, like Mozart and Beethoven, Steven Tyler's music will live on well beyond his time on earth. And that, my friends, speaks volumes. So in the immortal words of the man himself, come on and sing it with me - "dream on - dream until your dreams come true."

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Search birthday blog!

Yes, it is true, I'm a year older. My Facebook page is filled with well wishing, and it feels kind of overwhelming to know that, even for a few seconds each, people have thought of me and sent good wishes my way! I am inhaling deeply and taking it all in. And it feels gooooood!!!!!

I am giving some thought today to what a birthday means. When my mother was alive, I used to tell her that she should be the one getting a gift, because after all, she was the one doing the work on this day. I just showed up. But showing up is doing something - on many levels. It means something to show up in the world, to show up for other people, and especially to show up for yourself. I don't take it for granted when others show up for me, nor do I imagine that others take it for granted either.

So today, when a surprising number of people have wished me well and asked what I am doing to celebrate, I suppose my first answer is to be present in gratitude for the gift of my life and all the beautiful people that have been, are, and continue to be part of that life. I don't take affection for granted. That is the biggest gift I receive today.

My five year old niece begins Kindergarten today, and not long ago, when I was visiting her, she took her Barbie microphone out of its stand, (like an old entertainment pro and not a five year old), and she proudly said into her hand-held mic, "Now I'm going to walk around the room and you can tell me how much you love me." I burst into laughter as I held my arms as wide as they could go and said, "This much." But I envied her joy, her confidence, and her immense, doubtless certainty that she was quite loved. My prayer is that she never loses that, but it's also that we grownups can all remember that, because regardless of our stories, we are all children of a God who surely feels that way about us.

So today I'm starting my birthday with a few minutes of closing my eyes, and allowing myself to take in all the love that has been so generously offered to me. I gratefully accept it and return it tenfold to a world in desperate need of it.

As for the rest of my day, there will be roaming in my favorite bookstore, and having dinner with family and friends. Whatever your day brings for you today, I hope it includes knowing that you are loved.

Thank you for stopping by and for all your good wishes. I deeply appreciate it. - Ilene

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Search of...a Sunday sermon

It seems like this is a season of tough times for most people I know. Instead of "no news being good news," it feels as if there's bad news, then more bad news, and then some more bad news piled on top of that, higher than we can see a horizon beyond, and engulfing us past the point in which we can stay afloat.

No, I don't mean to bum you out first thing in the morning. It's just that ignoring the obvious has gotten us to this place, and if we are to get past it, we have to at least acknowledge where we are with honesty.

One of the greatest truths ever spoken is Gandhi's "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," and it is that profound idea that I keep coming back to when my heap o' troubles gets to be too much. Yes, people, the changes we want to see in our lives and in our world begin and end solely with us.

This is a tough thing to hear, because we are much more comfortable asking God or someone else to solve our problems or give us a magic pill. Doesn't it seem so much easier to ask God to solve our obesity issue than to eat healthfully and exercise? I mean, who wants to do that?!

And so I've taken to asking myself, "Who would I need to be to have the kind of life I want?" And "What qualities would I need to possess to get there?" If there is something worthy of asking for, I believe it lies in us doing the changing and cultivating of our finer qualities to make something better in the world, even if it's just our own lives.

To that end, yesterday, whilst having what I believed to be a much deserved pity party, I asked myself what I needed to get out of my funk, and it dawned on me that I truly needed someone to ask me how I was doing and mean it. It sounds simple and stupid, but we ask each other how we are as a matter of politeness, and we answer "fine" unconsciously, with just as much politeness, even when that couldn't be further from the truth.

So today I'm proposing that we be the change we wish to see in the world and start by offering those things we could really use ourselves.

Let's stop and take a moment to be present when we ask someone how they are, and truly wait and listen to their answer.

Let's be compassionate listeners, without judgement, advice, or condemnation.

Let's make someone else feel heard, understood, loved. That is the greatest thing we as human beings seek.

Let's try going about our day as if everything we did and said matters...because it does.

Let's take a moment to remember someone we loved who has transitioned into their next dimension and left their earthly bodies. Let's stop, take a breath, and a moment to celebrate the gift they were to our lives. Then let's take a moment to hold someone who is still here in prayer, and lift them up with thoughts of love and appreciation and prayers for blessings to chase them down in ways that will delight and transform them. Is that not what we would want someone to do for us? I know I would.

Let's give someone the gift of our love and release. Let's surrender to the power (I call God) that would only have things turn out for everyone's highest good.

Let's release ourselves from the bondage of fear and control for the benefits of faith and redemption.

Let's agree to call on ourselves, even when it is inconvenient, to be the voice for someone else who doesn't have one.

Let's start a day with a moment of silence, where instead of putting forth frenzy and strife, we breathe in peace and tranquility and solitude for just a moment so that we have some of it for ourselves to bring to the world as we go about our day.

Yes, these are the things I need. And so I recognize that I can't have that which I am unwilling to give to someone else. So it is my prayer today that I can do and be all that I just said. As a declaration of faith that this is so, I say aloud, "And so it is."

Peace and Blessings to you.
With immense gratitude that you stopped by,

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Search of...a mighty man of fearless courage

Gideon in the bible was asked by God to free the people of Israel and condemn their idol worshipping. He was called "a mighty man of fearless courage," and yet, before he'd venture off to battle, he asked God to prove Himself not once, but twice. I guess one miracle was a fluke, but two was a sure sign of God's existence. Anyway, I've been thinking quite a bit today, not about Gideon, but about the description "a mighty man of fearless courage."

In light of the deal reached by the President and leaders of Congress, I am at a loss for ways to express my disappointment. Paul Krugman put it best when he called it "extortion." And so, absent the President of the United States, I am looking for a mighty man of fearless courage, and as far as I can tell, he is nowhere to be found.

When I do that first thing that pops into your mind kind of thing, all I come up with is Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Seal Team 6. Okay, Gandhi and maybe the guy who was held captive by pirates on that ship a while back. But I'm looking for people today who are mighty, and fearless, and courageous. So I'm wondering what it takes to be that, and if we all couldn't cultivate just enough of it to right this awfully wrong course we're on.

The people in the bible that are used for miraculous things are always flawed. And so I wonder what miraculous things we could do - once we're done griping about the fact that we're called to do anything.

I'm not exactly sure why our representatives do not understand that the health of our country depends on the health of our country!! Healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy souls. You can't have a future without those. You can't deny education to the people you are counting on to fix the mess we've made. You can't expect a healthy workforce without regulating the food we put in our bodies, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.

And what of those who have had the good fortune to reach old age? I hate the term "entitlement programs," because it makes it sound like the elderly are spoiled children, demanding something that is not rightfully theirs, when in fact, they are citizens, many of whom have served this country, and who rely on the money that they paid into all the years they were working, to sustain their barest of necessities now, if that.

I frequently joke about winning the lottery. I imagine what it would be like to have that unthinkable amount of money, the kind that you couldn't spend in any foreseeable generation's lifetime. And I can assure you that nowhere in my musings do I ever feel slighted because I will have to pay a huge chunk of it - millions perhaps - in taxes. It wouldn't dawn on me to feel anything other than blessed. And it would dawn on me to do something for people who weren't so blessed.

I think the real sense of entitlement lies with the people who wouldn't even feel the pain of higher taxes, but will fight to the death of our country not to pay them. I think the word "entitlement" should be reserved for those who will never have to worry about food on their table, or a doctor's visit, or what kind of education their children will get. Let me be clear. It is not wealth that is the evil here. It is the greedy desire for more of it at the expense of human lives that is the evil. And that is not an overexaggeration of the state we're in at the moment.

Yes, I could go on complaining about our sorry state, or we could all take baby steps outside of our comfort zone to do one thing, our small part, if you will, to both help someone along the way and demand of our representatives that they represent us. For all the lobbyists, and big business campaign contributors, on Election Day it comes down to you and me in a voting booth. But our job is not done as citizens on only one day a year. If nothing else, our current situation should teach us that. We are called upon as citizens of this great country to discuss, debate, respectfully disagree, and make known our wishes and make heard our voices. These are times where each of us is sacrificing personally, but what we are willing to do now is solely dependent upon what we do not want to lose later. This is no joke, though I could use one about now.

So I wish for each of us to write, to call, to run for, to elect, to attend a Town Hall meeting we never have before, to volunteer at a school for whatever they need, to be emboldened, empowered, energized, and relentless in our determination to make something better. In short, I hope and declare by faith for us all to be mighty people of fearless courage.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.