December 25, 2010


Last Sunday at Middle Church, my pastor Jacqui Lewis preached the typical Christmas story.  Halfway through the sermon, however, she paused, looked up, and asked the congregants, "should I stop here?  Because you already know this story though don't you?"

"Mmmhhmm, we know it," people murmured.

Jacqui continued, "But the story does not end with the birth of a baby boy in a stable.  The story continues. . . because this baby made a difference.  This baby was a healer.  But Jesus did not try and make a difference on his own, he appointed disciples and gave them jobs.  He wielded influence, and  he gave orders.  He looked at his disciples, pointed at them, and ordered, 'YOU, heal the sick,  and YOU feed the hungry, and YOU help the poor.'  What he demanded of his followers is that they TOO be healers. He annointed them as such."  She ended the sermon with a similar demand, "now YOU go out into this world and be HEALERS as well."  

It was quite the demand, but as we shuffled out of the church into the cold, there was a shift in spirit.  People felt EMPOWERED.

POWER.  The word makes me shutter.  It makes me think of greed, politicians, manipulation, and deception.  More often than not, I view it as a corrupting force that elicits terrible actions in good people. The word holds connotations that surely are more negative than good, most likely because we have seen what happens when people take a drink from it.  But it doesn't have to be as such, and it is time we re-evaluate what it means to be powerful.

Caroline Myss explains in her book "Invisible Acts of Power: Personal Choices that Create Miracles" that every action we do and every word we think is an act of power.  She writes, "every action is an exchange of power between two people, no matter if that action is altruistic or acquisitive."

If power exists in the most simple exchanges--any interaction between two people--then regardless of whether I believe I hold power, I exercise it.  Of course, I don't always use my power for good.  When I snap at my siblings or am impatient in line or say a comment to a close one that I know will cause pain, I am influencing the world around me.  I can just as easily bring negativity to a situation with one snide comment or instantly hurt someone's feelings with a twist of the mouth. 

But it's Christmas, so I don't want to take about how power can cause suffering.  I'd rather talk about how our power can alleviate suffering.  How a smile at a person on the street can validate a human's existence, how a kind word of encouragement can help one's self-esteem, how a piece of food can ease one's hunger.  But, we don't need to remember "to do lists of kind acts," we just need to remember that the nice things we do are powerful, and, once we remember that, we can remember that we have the power to be healers.

I'm not saying this to encourage grandiose feelings of self, I'm saying this so that we can start to believe our selves are full of grandeur.  You and me, friend and reader, are healers.  We have this power.  And, fortunately or unfortunately, it exists whether we believe it or not or whether we align our actions to this belief.  Instinctively and innately, we are gifted with a set of tools that can bring people relief--physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  And, intuitively, we know when we should do an act of healing,  we just need to start listening to this intuition.

So, if this is true (as I believe it is), that we all have the power to heal, then how do we use these powers? This is what I'm still trying to figure out, debating between enlisting myself into a Buddhist monastery, starting my own non-profit, or moving to a random village in a developing nation and beginning my life anew (aka trying to accomplish "BIG" things) OR inching along down my path and challenging myself to be a healer in the smallest, most mundane, interactions during the day.  The latter is certainly more boring, but at the end of the day, all we have is the small interactions--my most lofty goals are compiled of only small acts and interactions.  And in these small actions, the subtlety of beauty and healing exists. So, in my journey towards something "bigger" (or maybe nothing big at all), my true test of power is in my daily encounters.

Perhaps quoting Mother Theresa's statement that "we cannot do great things -- only small things with great love," would be a cliche.  But, I'm willing to be cliche, to shine light on a statement that holds great meaning.  Aiming to do great things is a commendable goal, but aiming to be great when doing the small things is the true test.  And, as healers, we must not see even the small things as small, because within the small rests the expansive opportunity to touch another in kindness.

I, for one, cannot flippantly throw aside Mother Theresa's wisdom as a cliche because my struggle against my own power is alive each and every day.  There are times when I see myself as healer in the smallest of moments and there are times when I see myself as a helpless and frustrated bystander.  This fluctuation has subsisted in me for as long as I can remember.   There are days when I wake up and I am ready to fight the current and there are days when I'd much prefer to merely float down the river. But the days I choose to float is only is when I wake up under the false pretense that I am powerless.

So, today, on the birth of a baby boy who became one of the world's most famous Healers, I am going to awaken my own healing powers as well, wielding my power to alleviate suffering even in the smallest of acts, starting with . . . unloading the fricking dishwasher.

December 15, 2010

The Awkward Compliment.

Last week, on my way home from a place I can't remember, I was sitting on the subway staring at people (as usual).  Suddenly, an older sixty-something man boarded my subway car and sat down across from me.  Though there was hardly any one else on the subway car, he obliviously sat right next to the only other person on his side of the bench.  Their coats basically touching, I couldn't help but smile when the other man, looking annoyed, started to scoot away.  The older man, completely unaware, smiled to himself while staring upwards at an advertisement for a personal injury lawyer.

Watching this oblivious older man smile to himself made me smile.  And as my eyes scanned downwards, I couldn't help but notice that this was the cutest man I had ever seen.  He had white hair that was pushed back immaculately behind his ears and clear framed glasses.  He wore a white pressed collared shirt buttoned up to his neck with a plaid bow tie.  In a loose fitting coat, he had draped a silk scarf around his shoulders.  His pants were slightly too short, which allowed me to get a glimpse of the deep purple socks he was wearing.  And his shoes...the typical black, rubber-soled, old man shoes.  His hands lay folded in his lap.

Watching him smile to himself in this adorable outfit while sitting too close to the man next to him melted my heart.  And, in a not-so subtle attempt to capture this moment, I whipped out my i-phone to take a picture.  The other man, fully aware of what I was doing, and very confused as to why I was taking a picture, got up and moved to a different section of the subway car.  Whoops.  I pretended like I was then writing a text message, to "throw the old man off,"even though there is no service in the tunnels.  I didn't even need to pretend, the older man was completely unaware.  I took four more pictures, including one of his socks. 

We both got off and 2nd and 2nd.  As he walked in front of me, I was torn between making small talk, paying him a compliment, or saying nothing.  My internal struggle lasted the length of the subway tunnel, until we both approached the stairs to exit.  "Say it, Ker" I ordered myself.  "This is so awkward," I muttered, knowing what I was about to do.

"Excuse me, sir," I blurted.  The old man turned to look at me.  "I just wanted to say . . . that, well, I saw you on the subway . . . and you are the cutest dressed man I have ever seen."

After my blurtation, I realized that perhaps there were more eloquent and mature compliments of which I could have shared, but regardless . . .  this is what came out.

The old man inhaled deeply and then he exhaled with an energetic, "Oh my gosh! Well THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" He started beaming and a borderline giggle slipped through his lips.

"Well, I can't WAIT to get home to tell everyone what you said tonight.  Thank you for sharing that with me young lady."

"You're welcome," I said, and then fled the scene of the compliment.  Because after all, compliments to random strangers are awkward, but full conversations with people in the subway are even more awkward.

"Have a wonderful holiday," I yelled over my shoulder as I waved goodbye. 

"You bet!" he called after me, waving frenetically.

Alone up on the street, I smiled.  Smiled at the sight of the smiling man--the "cutest dressed man I've ever see-- and smiled at how ridiculously long it took me to say something.  But then the bittersweetness set in . . . why was I so scared to give a compliment to a stranger?  How often am I walking on the street and walk past people of any age and think, "that person is beautiful," or "that child is precious," or "that woman has a wonderful smile," or see a person visibly upset and think "I wish that person peace."  And how often do I ever utter those thoughts to the people themselves? Never.  Really never.

What is it about society that makes us so fearful to engage with someone we don't know?  What makes it even harder to look someone in the eye and to pay them a personal compliment?  Why are the most loving sayings the hardest to utter, even to those that we know and love? I'm not really sure, but I'm going to try to speak my positive thoughts to people more often.  Because it matters to people, and even when it doesn't, it somehow matters to me to share that with them. And though it is likely that a few people will think I'm crazy as I blurt ineloquent compliment, it's a risk that I'm willing to take to fight this trend of "say nothing."

You should do it too . . . I dare you.

December 6, 2010


I am undecided about most things, I think
what i will eat for dinner
or wear to work today

and beyond this trivial,
I am undecided about the career I shall pursue
or the faith I shall practice

But You.
I am decided about You.
I am decided that I will love You
for a very long time.
even always.
and each day, regardless of my indecisiveness
I will take comfort in the permanence of my decision
to keep this Love alive.

December 1, 2010


I just returned home from a glorious week in Costa Rica celebrating the marriage of two de facto family members.  After a week with no internet, tv, phone, hot water, subways or crowds of people, the thought of heading back to New York City was slightly daunting.  Though it's Christmas in NYC, which is always my favorite time of year in the City, the thought of endless supplies of people with large shopping bags and rain-soaked umbrellas made me cringe.

In an effort to dwell on my misery upon my return, I listened to Ray Lamantagne's sing his lyrics: "Just gotta get out of New York City, need a place where I can feel free, Gotta get out of NYC, NYC is killing me."

I wasn't even back yet, and NYC was already killing me,  Sing it Ray.

I listened to the song approximately 26 times on repeat until I felt satisfactorily miserable.  (There's something slightly sick about listening to music that you know will make you sad, but on long travel days, I love to tap into that subtle sadness that I would ordinarily shake off.  It's fun to conduct an individual psychological study on how music can affect my mood or bring back particular memories.) Once I was content with how much I dreaded my return,  I switched back to my chanting beats to reharness some positive energy.

Ultimately, I think my dread for the bustle of the City was the result of a delusional paradigm.  I view vacations, and even weekends, as an Escape.  And as such, these days away provide me an opportunity to escape from the routines of life, to avoid the distractions on the internet, and to spend time exploring my own creativity--a time where I can be fully be present, free from distractions, and connect with family and friends who are physically present without worrying about those friends and family who may await my interaction through technological means.  By disconnecting from constant communication, I am able to reconnect with those around me, and, most importantly, reconnect with myself.  While this, in theory, sounds healthy (that is removing yourself from places to reconnect), the delusion permeates this idea in two different ways: (1) that I must physically remove myself from my normal geographic location to reconnect, and (2) what I view as an escape should actually be my everyday reality.

I need to shift how I view "escape."  Perhaps, instead of escaping elsewhere I merely need to return inward--to return to my innermost quiet still place.  A return to simplicity and presence and authentic interaction.  After all, that's why we like vacations.  And I can create this return right here in the comforts of my apartment in the heart of New York City.  This a slightly unfortunate realization because it means that I am responsible for creating my own relaxation and vacation-esque calm.  It also means I shouldn't wait for vacations or weekends to recenter. 

I guess for now, I'll be content on knowing that I have free roundtrip ticket to a place of calm within myself that I can access twenty-four hours a day. And the more I can escape to this place, the more it can become an everyday reality.  Now, if I only could access some Costa Rican sun during these personal vacations inward.