Collecting Smiles
January 21, 2020
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Faces of Compassion

A couple months ago in LA, I heard my son and his friends talking about the changes they’ve noticed since they took up a gratitude practice — the one where every day you write down ten things you are grateful for. I felt happy for them even as this thought flitted by, “Oh yes, did that years ago. My practice is more sophisticated now.”  Yeah, right! In fact, the gratitude muscle is like every other muscle … only regular exercise keeps it strong. And now seems like a great time to give it a workout.  

So, today I’m grateful for: My much cleaner closets, drawers, cupboards and pantry. The long overdue heart-talks I’ve been having with old friends. The miracle of Zoom where I can be with my sweet family who live in different states and time zones … where I can move with the Dance Collective in Asheville and do breathwork with others around the world and “see” beloved clients and plan more Interfaith gatherings. All without leaving home! 

I have to say I’m even grateful for one long, self-critical and socially-isolated day — because it led me to a new way (again without leaving home) to get to the love that ultimately brought relief … and brought me back to me.

In brief, it seems that the upheaval of today’s world triggered a part of me from another time when everything felt upside down. When I was a teenager in the late ’60’s/early 70’s, there was a lot of turmoil in both my small personal world and the larger world of war, riots, nuclear threat, protests, assassinations, etc.  This young part of me had no idea how to deal with her painful feelings about it all — so she didn’t. Her strategies to deal with fear, anger, hurt, grief, embarrassment, and loneliness were typical for so many back then . . . and for so many still. The strategies of repression, denial, projection, dissociation. In other words, distracting, ignoring, blaming and getting high!

The adult me knows how powerful — and even beautiful and natural — it is to reach out to others when you’re hurting. But when a triggered part is ashamed of its feelings, it will avoid asking for help at all costs. Because that would mean being vulnerable. And this is where the deep, primal human need for love is met with an equally strong determination to never have to ask for it. 

At one point during the aforementioned gloomy day, when my usual self-help ways weren’t working and I still had too much resistance to actually call someone else, it occurred to me to think about all the loving people I have known. So, I began to picture faces from different times of my life. I saw many of your faces. I said your names and let in your love. And slowly, I returned to the awareness of peace — the spacious peace that is truly a home.

On one level, you could say that the neural networks in my brain that hold my knowing of others’ care and kindness were reaching out to the neural webs that held old painful feelings of disconnection. For this is how the conscious mind uses the brain to change memories — by holding the awareness of ‘now’ where love is present alongside the memory of ‘then’ when it wasn’t. Unti l– at last — it’s not my love or your love, but it’s the love. The very essence of who we are, and the energy that returns us to knowing that.

So, thank you for your help the other day! I am so grateful for your faces of compassion. xox


  1. Shelley Chandler says:

    I miss the woman’s retreats and I especially miss YOU!!!!!!

  2. Ginger says:

    Thank you Elizabeth!

    I’m seeing your face and saying your name right now.

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