Powerful or Powerless?

“One of the best gifts to give a friend is freedom.”
–James Martin, S.J.


Do you ever wish for freedom from caring about things or from caring about certain people? I’ve learned some very powerful lessons about attachment in the last couple of years. Have you seen someone you love in a frightful act of self-sabotage? And you want to fix him or her? That’s attachment.

Offering help and knowing it’s that person’s choice to take or leave your advice, that’s called detachment. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care, detachment can actually manifest as a powerful act of love.

I have a friend who is an absolute expert at emotionally compartmentalizing people and events. At times I’ve watched him do this to protect his heart. Now though, I see how he uses it to spend his energy on the individuals, causes and moments most important to him. I feel like he has taught me by example. And now, I’m practicing.

You may recall that on December 31st, I created a video invitation to forget resolutions and give yourself a monthly gift. Just pick one word per month, write it on an index card and put each one in a sealed envelope. Last month, my word was TRUST. I watched how that word showed up all month. And it continues to remind me to trust that I’m on the right path, even when I’m feeling pain, it’s part of a formula that gets me to joy.

I opened this month’s envelope on April 2nd and it was POWERFUL. I love that word. Today, I read this excerpt below and it truly made me think about power:

“Admitting powerlessness is not something we love to do and yet, it is the cornerstone of the healing path of recovery. To admit one’s powerlessness is to understand one’s place in the world. For example, we are powerless over the actions of others. We cannot control other people. Simply understanding this can literally change the course of our life. I struggled for many years trying to “fix” my father. He was very sick and was making poor choices. It hurt me to see his pain and to watch the results of his poor choices right in front of my eyes. Truth be told, I became annoying to my father by trying to change him. He needed acceptance and unconditional love, but it was very difficult for me to give these to him. When he died, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I’ve expended all this effort trying to make my dad better. It strained our relationship and he has still died, sick and unhappy.’ That was a hard lesson for me to learn in recovery, but it has been one of the most important of my life.

There is an amazing power in admitting one’s powerlessness. It is counter-intuitive, which is why our logical thinking gets in the way. On your path, you will hopefully come to learn many ways that you are powerful. You will be blessed indeed not to forget the places where you are powerless.” –Tommy Rosen*, Addiction Recovery Expert & Yoga Teacher

Are you saying “wow”? Because I sure did!

So here’s my takeaway, I can be powerfully powerless. I can detach. And in so doing, I am free. This has allowed me to experience an incredible sense of joy, even in the face of some recent conflicts, that have nothing to do with me. I just watched them occur without any emotional attachment to the words and energy emanating from those creating conflict. This state of being is also possible when you perceive stresses, dramas and tensions are connected to you. While you may have obligations to take actions to move forward through those moments (at work, with family, in traffic), you are powerless in terms of controlling them, so why carry all of the emotional garbage that piles up? Why not let it fall in a dumpster, stay detached and put your power in what you can affect: your own reaction, your own heart.

Here’s one more nugget that helped me to understand the dance of being simultaneously detached, powerful and powerless:

In some of the most painful moments in the lives of friends and families—illness, divorce, death, worries about their children, financial problems—we usually cannot work miracles…Paradoxically, admitting your own powerlessness can free you from the need to fix everything and allow us to be truly present for the other person and to listen…This is when we are called not to do, but to be.”

–James Martin, S.J., The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything

Rock on my friends, flow and just be. It’s much easier.

*Tommy Rosen  is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in yoga, recovery and wellness. He holds advanced certifications in both Hatha and Kundalini Yoga and has 20 years of recovery from acute drug addiction. You can register for Tommy’s free online conference “Recovery 2.0 Beyond Addiction” May 3-7, 2014 through: http://recovery2point0.com.

With thanks to http://www.entheos.com for sharing Rosen’s work. 


Wine, Women and Divine Noticing


This red dress fits like a glove. And these shoes are so comfortable. I feel fantastic. I am in awe. It’s like I’m floating. Wait, guess what, there’s no red dress, no shoes–but there may be flying.

As I was just driving to the grocery store, I was figuring out how to understand my own spiritual transformation so that I could sit down and write to you about it.

I don’t know how to explain how good I feel, how in awe I am of what it’s been to let go and trust. I came up with the red dress analogy. You know when you are confident, in your zone, dressed to the nines, healthy and on your game? Or say you are about to step on the field or the court and everything flows. You are in perfect symmetry with your teammates. I feel that way in my spirit now.

For the purposes of this post, I may use the word God. You can substitute that with Spirit, Universe, Buddha, Yemaya, Penelope or Fred, whatever works for you.

I’ve been in a state of seeking that’s been confusing lately. I was raised [not strict] Catholic, studied Buddhism, was educated by Quakers, schooled by Jews and befriended by Muslims and Christians. It’s been stimulating, exciting and distracting.

Recently, I went to my first ever Georgetown University alumni event (was shocked to realize I’m nearing my 25th reunion) called “Wine and Women, Reflections on Life and Faith.” I took the bus far north on a very dark and freezing Thursday night to listen to Jesuit Father Brian Paulson talk about faith. Father Paulson was forthcoming about his own fallibility as a human being. This made for a collective sigh of relief in the room. You could feel the overachievers (myself included) relax. His talk really hinged on the art of noticing. The main goal is to be in a divine state of noticing little things all of the time. That, in many ways, is prayer.

Here are a few highlights:

  1. Take a question to the pool, the garden, the car, or in my case, the kitchen. We can be in conversation with God anywhere. Father Paulson, an avid swimmer, takes a question to the pool and converses with God lap after lap. I often feel that magic while cooking. Lots of folks do it while driving. He even urged people to just sit in the silence without music during a drive. Sometimes, though, music can lift you to a place of higher spirit whether it’s Israel and the New Breed, Pink, Grandmaster Flash or in my case on the bus ride home that evening, George Winston. I listened to his December album and remembered being eighteen years old at the Kennedy Center and sneaking back stage after the concert. Mr. Winston played for about twelve of us until almost 1:00am. The music brought me back to 1987. When a young woman was ready to invent a spy story to sneak back and be a little closer to a man whose music had brought her so much peace and solace. Revisiting that moment, while flying down Lake Shore on the the #147, brought me closer to God.
  1. Work the Triangle. There are three places where we meet God: in written form (as a Catholic, I’m less familiar with the Bible than many other religions, he suggested spending time with the Psalms); in prayer (swimming, gardening, driving, etc.); and communal prayer. This is Church. Now as I indicated in an earlier blog post titled, Faith, Boredom and Desire, I’m not always the best at going to church. Last weekend, I thought of Father Brian and went by myself, late and hit it just in time for the homily when the priest basically gives a summary of what’s been read and links it to life, global and historical events. We happen to have a rockin’ cool and self-aware priest named Father Jerry Boland. He was connecting Harriet Tubman’s journey with the creation of the Underground Railroad and her signature lantern, to finding light on your journey. Luckily, I was sitting towards the back and for the rest of the mass where on and off, I felt overwrought with joy. I was crying quietly into my handkerchief (yes, I carry one) and was wondering why it smelled like soft pretzels. I realized there were so many salty tears pouring out of me. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was confused. Was I crying because I was so happy or because I was lifting up premature baby Jaxon in prayer? Because I was remembering Jaxon’s grandmother and her prayer warriors who had prayed for my son through three operations when he was a toddler? Those women, whom I don’t know, held me up in their hands, hearts and souls. They prayed for guidance for the medical professionals helping my son. They prayed for my sanity. Or was it because I was carrying the joy of the sister of my heart who had lost so many loved ones that she is finding it hard to carry her own joy right now? I was keeping the joy for her, carrying it until she could open her eyes again and see the sun. Or was it the giant light burning inside of me that I felt worthy to carry every single day? A fellow parishioner came to see me while I was crying and I told her, “I’m okay, I’m just releasing.” And she understood.  So work that triangle baby, in solitude, with written inspiration and in communion with others, in whatever way works for you.
  1. Deal with your appetites. Catholics don’t have a monopoly on guilt, but we are so good at it. Father Brian talked about his love of golf. And how if he played golf as much as he wanted to, he would not do funerals and weddings and that would make him a bad priest. It seems obvious that I cannot stay home and paint, write and create all day…for now. I have to go to work, help at home, raise my child, nurture my marriage. I can however, still indulge in those appetites and being the boisterous, spontaneous and energetic person that I am…get this, I need to indulge in moderation. Extreme fun and extreme art can still be had. And I can still do the laundry, the dishes and pay the bills. The latter may not whet my appetites but they keep systems in place so that I can indulge in the appetites that I so enjoy.

Father Brian and the women with whom I spoke after the event, made me feel like I belonged to another tribe. Another circle to connect to my evolving venn diagram of relationships and support. I am so grateful to my alma mater for inviting me. And to spirit for plucking something in me to attend. Before I end this post, I want to thank you for reading, listening and responding. In the poem in the previous post, I wrote “your mind knows not\let your soul tell it so.” This poem came to me at the edge of sleep in the morning because I’ve been wrestling with understanding intellectually how I can feel so at peace. You, dear readers, have been a part of my spiritual transformation just by reading. It helps me to show up and unravel and figure things out. And also, to stop figuring things out in the mind, and let my soul tell me what’s what. Thank you!

There’s more to share my friends, but for now, I’m leaving you with those three ponderings.  And wishing that you embrace the divine in yourself, find that place of quiet conversation, a community that embraces you and some words to wrap your soul in the light of that perfect moment. From my lit-up heart to yours, I send you love and moments of divine noticing.


With gratitude to artist Meriah Jacobs-Frost for the inspiring photo above where she wrote “No matter what you perceive as ‘god’, even if it’s ‘just’ that divine within you, I believe this so SO much. Let your light shine!”