Connected Through Change

connection

A million miles away, through a stained glass window of change I’m still learning to appreciate, looms the landscape of my heart. The cement walls don’t cave in on me anymore, but the weighty doors feel ancient, and I need help pushing them all the way open. The sunlight of the universe’s infinite love shines down through my crown and warms my soul to the core. I finally feel connected.

Connection means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Connecting my feet to the ground didn’t seem important before I read some of Jeff Brown’s books. Who was this guy, walking barefoot through the woods? Turns out that it didn’t matter, because the guy walking through the woods is all of us.  Now, as I close my eyes and look up to the sun, crisp mountain air in my lungs, and firmness of wet dirt under my bare feet, I start to see what he meant. It’s not just “grounding and centering,” as I have been taught in meditation with the skilled David Stevens. It’s not just being in nature, absorbing every essence of the senses I can, connecting flesh to flesh or flesh to mud, or hands to heart. And it’s not only as I’ve learned from Pema Chödrön, breathing into the space, accepting and feeling until it expands and becomes bigger than you, until you are truly connected to all that is.

It’s all of these things.

The idea of organized religion never appealed to me because it was frowned upon to “pick and choose.” I was raised with the idea that if the Bible says it, then that’s it. End of the story. But when I started realizing that who I was contradicted quite a few bible verses, the shame rolled in and the fear dominated my life. As I was healed by the spirit of love, and as I grew stronger in recovery, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt…I was loved. I knew, I heard and I felt in the depths of my soul, when I handed my life and will over to my higher power, that I was loved exactly the way I was. 

I’m not here to describe what I think God is or isn’t. And I’m most certainly not here to agree or disagree with ANYTHING. I am here to connect, to bear witness, to carry my torch, and to surrender to the idea that we all have a story, and that story really matters. Hearing other people’s stories in my darkest days saved my life. And I am compelled to keep sharing mine, no matter how terrifying that may be sometimes.

Guess what? Your story matters too. I know this in the depth of my heart. Don’t ever think otherwise. You are so blessed to be alive and share this journey. Your unique and compelling journey to find who YOU are is universal. Don’t hide it under a mask or a in a deep crevasse…let your light shine through.

In the big book, it says that we can’t apologize for our creator. In a discussion I was privileged to witness about this passage, someone brought it a step further, saying, “If GOD created me, and I don’t apologize for my creator, then I don’t apologize for myself either. I can’t be ashamed of who I am and I can’t be ashamed of the greatest power in the universe, THE SOURCE of all.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. Then, the weight was lifted.

Fighting cancer made me just that little bit braver. Facing my truths wasn’t a brief coming out celebration on a backdrop of fear and a future of uncertainty. I wake up every day and choose to be as GOD created me. 

The instants where I am self doubting or insecure are more fleeting and less heavy. I have smiles, joy and exuberance, even when I am alone. The idea of any kind of mood altering substance seems extreme and worthless- now that I have found something different- an awakening.

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No artificial high could ever duplicate the intense passion that breathes life into my heart and soul day by day. Never have I felt so much gratitude. Never have I been able to breathe and be lighter. My priorities have shifted dramatically. I am taking action from a space of love and acceptance, not fear and shame. I am reaching out in the spirit of service- not out of obligation, but out of gratitude. I’m truly connecting.

To me connection is the reason we are on this planet. If I’m not real, I can’t connect with you, it’s as simple as that. The connection to myself has to first be established in a concrete way. My connection has to then expand to include the infinite love that surrounds us all. Before I can embrace you, I  have to embrace me, and vice versa.

You can’t buy connection; It’s priceless! And you can’t fake it. This is the real deal. The whole enchilada. I am so thankful I don’t have to lie about who I am anymore. I don’t have to fake a smile, or say what I think people want to hear. Today I have the gift of self awareness and authenticity. Owning up to exactly who and what I am opens me up to allow my creator to foster a deep soul connection on a daily basis. Being willing to grow and learning to trust my source means I can surrender and accept the change that makes connection with my family, friends, mentors, heroes, and greater community possible. Without connection my life is an empty journey through a meaningless vacuum. And I know for certain I am here on the planet for much more. You are too. ❤

Break the Mold

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You stare at a vast array of images before you, squinting to discern the detail. All appears hazy. A million people, all lined up perfectly in a row…but why? Who taught them to fall in place? Who gave the order for the replica script?

As you tread carefully closer, it becomes obvious. These people are not people at all. They are merely shadows, echoes, outlines. You vow to never fade; you will not become a mere replica.

The thundering fear pounds in your chest, and yet you are still.

The aching pain of risk drenches you with sweat, but you do not falter.

Being yourself is all you know.

Being true is all that’s left.

YOU BREAK THE MOLD.

What’s that? You say you’re a black sheep? I am too. Embrace your uniqueness. Love the color of your wool. Don’t wax remiss because you don’t fit into a box. blck sheep

Personally, the difference between then and now for me is acceptance. I accept that I am different, that I may need to stir the pot a bit, that people’s reaction to me can be full of love or full of hate but it might never be neutral. Knowing that my source orchestrates every scene of my life gives me the courage to accept the path lit by the divine. And while my own path driven by ego might need to have uniformity, perfection and everyone patting me on the back, usually the path of the divine is much more visceral and raw. The path of the divine cuts me open and in the process those around me. Being cut open is not easy. It’s RAW.

But you know what? Raw is real. And I don’t know how to be fake anymore. ONE SOURCE in my life has all the power, and that source isn’t me. That source leads me beside still waters and makes my life bountiful when I just choose to bask in the divine light that connects us all. And since I am following this ONE SOURCE, being filled with love and connection and truth and beauty minute by minute, I needn’t worry about BEING DIFFERENT.

If I am BREAKING THE MOLD, then that is exactly who and what I was created to be.

As I get quiet and go deep inside, I am reassured. I know in the clarity of stillness where my inspiration, passion and vocation lie. I know in the stillness who I am called to be. Although it’s usually terrifying to follow these callings, I know from experience that denying them creates for me a fate worse than death.

So, fear be damned! Let’s press on in spite of our seeming limitations. Let’s follow the lit path even if it’s raw and uncomfortable. With much risk comes much reward. Join me. BREAK THE MOLD.

Holding Out for a Hero

Holding Out for a Hero…

S_A-hero-is-someone-who-has-given-his-or-her-life-to-something-bigger-than-oneself.For the first time in almost 20 years, I am single, and although I’d ideally love to be in a committed romantic relationship someday, I am truly grateful. You know why? It’s a new paradigm. I have learned, through harrowing experiences the last few very intense years of my life to be grateful for EVERYTHING. Cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatment? Grateful. Flat broke? Grateful. Recovery? Grateful. Divorce? Grateful. Homeless? Grateful. Am I a crazy woman? No. I am a woman with a lot of faith, and finally and for the first time in my life, my faith comes from personal experience, not from a mentor, teacher, preacher, pastor, bible, book or billboard. It comes from getting down on my knees in inexorable pain and surrendering to a power greater than myself, the daily practice of step by step healing that has carried me through the most difficult period of my life, and from an amazing support group of people who love me for exactly who I am in this moment, not for anyone they want me to be or change into.

How can I be grateful for something seemingly bad, like having no money? Or getting cancer? The simple fact is this. These situations are opportunities to rely on the power of infinite love in the universe. Some people choose to call it God, the divine, Source, the Infinite…but no matter what we call it, we can all agree it is a pure energy of light and love that surrounds us when we can’t stand and lifts us up. It is this divine presence we must call upon in our worst moments and darkest hours. And then, somehow, if we are able to ask for help, and let go of our expectations of how things should and shouldn’t be, let go of how things are “supposed” to be, this amazing power comes in and heals us, changes us and transforms us. That is my experience, and I am not alone. Any person who truly wants this life of happiness, joy and freedom can have it if they are willing to surrender.

As a result of this recovery, healing and gratitude, a shift has begun, deep down in my bones. My self-deprecating sense of unworthiness has fallen away, shard by painful shard, and the scales over my eyes which previously blinded me from my own lovability have fallen away. For the first time in my life, I can honestly look in the mirror and say that I love myself. It isn’t a bullshit affirmation. I am not faking it until I make it. It’s raw and vulnerable and real and almost feels as if I am outside myself looking in. It comes on the heels of over 2 solid years of the most intense spiritual and personal work I have ever done. It comes as I finish 19 months of a battle with breast cancer. It comes as I have said finally without reservation, “to thine own self be true,” and refused to stand one second longer in inauthenticity. The road to my change is littered with the bodies of those who could not choose to follow me, but here I stand, naked in my truth, gulping the fresh air, knowing I am loved beyond measure by the spirit of the universe and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I am connected to you, though love, through pain, though humanness and through our journey together on this beautiful planet.

same essenceHaving said all of this, and knowing in the depth of my heart it is the truth, I also know today that I can hold out for a hero to share this all with. I’m not searching to fill a void in my soul that no human can fill. I am not looking for a soulmate, or the perfect match on my vision board to complete me Renee Zellweger and Tom Cruise style. You don’t have to either. Let’s join, and hold out for a hero together.

We don’t need a disney hero, or a knight in shining armor to rescue us or to save us. We crave a true hero. A hero dedicated to something bigger than just themselves. Someone who is real and raw and vulnerable and allows their partner inside and underneath all the beautiful to the ravaged and damaged. This person isn’t afraid to be real because they don’t base their self worth on any approval or disapproval. They don’t need romantic connection or human love to be whole. They know who they are and where they are going, and they know it in the darkest depths of their imperfect human soul. When they struggle they ask for help and search deep inside for the answer, without blaming their environment, their loved ones or their circumstances. When things become disjunct, this hero can look you directly in the eye and has the courage to tell you exactly what you need to hear for growth and change, then quietly listens as your voice speaks in turn. The two of you link arms, lock down and hold on to this roller coaster called life not because you don’t want to die alone, but because it’s much more exciting to share life’s ups and downs together.

You-are-beautifulFor the first time in your life, choose to know that you are worth all that. Knowing this places you in a state of grace and acceptance. There is no loud click of the biological clock, no white picket fence you need to install and no Caribbean cruise awaiting your decision. It’s the peace and comfort of infinite love and the space to be authentic which we revel in. And whether or not some beautiful person shows up to join with us on this path today, tomorrow or never, we are joyously content holding out for a hero. The paradox is this: You needn’t even hold out; the the true hero is YOU.

Transparency

She’s frantic, running ragged in the tiny maze of corridors, stuffing all her tender bits of pain into the crevices and crannies, locking up in tiny lockers of her broken heart the things she’s sure that others won’t accept. She wonders how she fits into schemes, roles and scenarios instead of how she fits herself to be of maximum usefulness in a true and passionate life.  She nearly becomes open and true, only to furtively look over her shoulder for who might disparagingly see. The woman in this maze of secrecy, self-doubt and shame used to be me.

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On the outside I was confident, funny, wide-smiling, motivated and caring. But although I was able to be helpful to others, I had no clue how to help myself. Inside I was absolutely terrified. Being terrified of what others think is pretty common. I was also terrified of what I thought about myself. The scraping pain of knowing I was unloveable and unworthy ate at the depths of my soul. I had a sinking feeling that somehow I was broken. And because of that feeling, I couldn’t bear to be real. The lonely ache deep inside me, told me I was the only dysfunctional one and I had better hide the fact. I hadn’t the faintest inkling of how to even begin to be honest, transparent and true.

The amazing thing is that, even in my terror, latent miracles bloomed. I truly believe today that the amazing grace of love flows through us all, whether we are in our darkest hour or our shining reverie. That is the miracle of oneness. Paul Williams on a recent Super Soul Sunday spoke of this same miracle. He spoke of how his songs were a light in the dark until he had the courage to recover. I know this musical thread has not only saved my life but at times it’s been the only source of the hand and voice of God itself. Because of these experiences, I know in the depth of my heart, we can be a channel of light even inside our own darkness. Like Paul, this grace saved my life until I could find the courage to embrace who I was, and by doing so, embrace oneness.

I met a new friend recently who seemed a little surprised by my commitment to be transparent. I had to honestly admit that after all I have been through, the exhausting charades, the people pleasing, the melodrama and the unnecessary suffering, I couldn’t fathom being anything else. To me, staying alive directly depends on my authenticity. To be authentic, I must be transparent. I cannot afford to hide any part of myself any longer. I need the energy I used to use to manage my life to LIVE my life. I need that energy to BE. I need that energy to engage and feel and experience. For me, that means I’m no longer afraid of answering questions directly. “Yes, I’m writing a rock musical. Yes, I only have one breast. Yes, I’m single in my late 30’s after 2 messy divorces. Yes, I feel deeply connected spiritually and yes I believe God loves me whether I am GLBT, republican, democrat, straight, succeeding, struggling, or anything else.”

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The divine is our source of all love. The divine is our source of all beauty, and hope and faith. We don’t go out into the world to gain these things, We are born with them. To be loved and loving is every human being’s divine birthright. To follow our true callings in life and live our passion for the greatest good of the universe must be our focus. Anything that reinforces the ideas that we are unworthy or unloveable just wont do. It simply does not work.  Say no to “Not enough!” Refuse to drink that kool-aid any longer. I want you to know, honestly, from the depth of my heart and soul, and from the voice of the divine that you are worthy and lovable. You can feel divine energy all the way down to your bones if you just ask and you don’t need any human being to affirm that for you. We don’t need external validation for what we know to be true in our souls. For this gift we can be truly grateful. And as a result we can be fearlessly transparent.

Feeling Loved during Pain

pain gibran

We all need love. Perhaps the times we are in pain, we need it the most. The nature of the human condition is such that we have a divine desire to give share and accept love. But sometimes, the circumstances of our life overshadow that. I have experienced a way out…

Before you complain about Meditation, let’s talk nitty gritty. Or TMZ. Seriously though, meditation has been embraced by enough celebrities! So, what more reason do you need? I mean, how weird could it be if Katy Perry, Sting, Hugh Jackman and Ellen DeGeneres all do it? 😉  Most 12 step recovery programs include meditation in their steps and daily practice of a spiritual program. I knew last year I needed to meditate. I tried to learn to meditate. I tried to quiet the endless spinning locomotive of tangled thoughts in my mind, to clear some space and listen. But I was still in resistance. I still didn’t really want to yet. What was blocking me? It’s not like I was trying to achieve nirvana or everlasting peace. I was just trying to sit quietly for a few minutes.

Perhaps NOTHING was blocking me. Maybe it wasn’t yet the right timing. Have you ever tried to force something before it was time? Honestly, that is the story of my young adult life. It’s exhausting trying to over manage and make things fit when you aren’t in the FLOW of the universe. But thank the beautiful heavens, the universe is patient. If something isn’t fitting, we can relax, breathe in and let our heart expand. We can get quiet and let the presence of the divine lead. It is truly amazing how patient the universe is to wait for the timing that would best enable our comfort and joy. It takes a lot of practice to trust that timing, but if we LET GO and ALLOW our lives to happen, they become so much richer and fuller.

My timing came at an “I Can Do It” conference, completely by surprise. I thought I was there to hear world-class speakers tell their story. The universe had decided my tree was ripe and the fruit of meditation needed to be plucked, and bitten into, until the juices ran down. I finally meditated successfully for the first time. Coached by Wayne Dyer, Panache Desai and Davidji, the stars aligned for my sun from within to finally begin to shine again.

Perhaps the most shocking gift of meditation is the paradox that follows. When I get quiet and take time to listen to ME, I become more deeply connected to YOU. We are of the same light, the brilliant light that connects us, that beautiful energy that holds you so that you know you are not alone.

For me, if I’m honest, God is not a bearded Jesus or a noble man sitting in the heavens on his white throne. Although many Christians take refuge and gain great spiritual help from the traditional teachings of the Bible, my path has proved different. The cross and the commands do not comfort me, but rather have been a source of deep shame I have had the courage to work through.

But this process of meditation is different. It connects me with a higher power that isn’t an idea, it’s an EXPERIENCE. It connects me at the soul level, at the heart level and through my entire body. It gives me a simultaneous peace and joy that I have never felt until now.

My struggles with relationships, work, fighting cancer, self identity, spirituality and the constant hope and search for a life path have all had the darkest of days. But from the other side of the tunnel, I am here to report that these excruciating moments in my life have paved the way for the road to beauty.

deepest pain

Panache Desai calls it, “stripping the emotional density.” It’s painful to let go and to change. But this change and acceptance allows us to truly BE who we are called to be.

The only way I know to LIVE through these intense moments is to go within. To sob, to hold the space, to be in the moment, to be all that I am and know that I am not what I am feeling, creates a tiny crevice of light. Into this crevice seeps in the beautiful energy of the divine when I relax and surrender. I meditate; I heal; I breathe I surrender. I close my eyes and breathe deeply into a vibrational shift. I experience the vast nature that connects us all, and even in my pain I feel loved. May you find this sacred space in your own way and time, and experience the love that connects us all. Namaste.

Passion

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As far back as I can remember, passion has kept me alive. When I was a small child and I felt like there was something wrong with me because I was different, this passion comforted my heart and helped my know that somehow I was here for a reason. It started as a thread of hope, a glimmer of light, a sparkle that lit a sea of uncertainty, warming my soul, and allowing my fragile heart to begin to blossom safely.

This weekend, I was reminded so beautifully of what that passion felt like as a young person, as I was privileged to witness young people ages seven through fifteen perform music at our fall recital. For a young person to have the courage to stand in front of an audience of their peers and present a deep expression of who they are through music amazes me every time. I am humbled and honored to be a part of the unfoldment of these young musicians. In particular, I’m inspired by those students who step outside of the normal confines of a typical “music recital” and arrange a piece of music, write original music, or perform anything outside of their comfort zone. This fuels my heart and soul to continue to follow suit.

Learning to be vulnerable and to take risks in any arena can be daunting. But using the voice, the body and the energy of the heart to express deep emotion takes a special kind of courage. I’m not talking about talent. Although several of the students are “talented,” that isn’t the point at all. It’s not a contest nor is it a showing of the ego. A recital provides a unique moment in time, a snapshot if you will, as a venue for connection, vulnerability and self-expression.

Cultivating the courage we require as adults starts at a young age. What a beautiful opportunity these young people have been afforded by their families to take this visceral plunge into the depths of their soul if they so choose! For me personally, not just as a young person, but as a teenager, college kid, and adult, music kept my flame lit. At the times I wanted to curl up and die of shame, music caressed the very fabric of my soul. At the times I felt I was worthless, unloveable and a failure, music reminded me that amidst pain we find the richest beauty. In my most difficult trials and travails, music sang me awake again, gently weaving my heart into a place of comfort. In those moments, I truly lived. It was as if a chasm opened, a parallel universe where nothing mattered except my breath, my beating heart and the sweet swirl of melody running through my fingers. When I was in the music, I was truly in ME. Passion-And-Purpose

You know what your heart craves, what your body needs and how your mind most easily falls into the energetic and peaceful hum of passion. You know what stirs you, keeps you alive and feels like home. You know, better than anyone what makes your heart sing and your soul rest in the light of it’s own truth. That is your passion. It doesn’t matter what the passion is, or how you define it. It only matters that you honor the callings of the universe and pursue it anyway you can, as deeply as you can and as often as you can. When each one of us honors that beautiful part of our soul, ALL of humanity is blessed in turn. Be present to your passion.

Authenticity: Healing Remedy

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Authenticity is the most healing remedy I know. But it doesn’t start out roses and daffodils, with a sultry voice singing you lullabies as you sip the sweet nectar of the gods. Nope. It starts flailing, uncoordinated, verbose in silence and yet silently morose. It starts in the trenches as a fight. But it’s a fight that’s worth every drop of sweat and every blackened bruise.

To-be-nobody-but-yourself

For me, it started with swallowing a hard pill I couldn’t choke down without help. Honesty. I needed solid mentors in my life that could be transparent with others, honest with themselves and true to every fiber of their being to lead the way. But all this shining light of the people I admire, like Jeff Brown, Panache Desai, Chely Wright, Oprah and Deepak… was just a catalyst.

I had to take action.

I had to change my life.

Hiding who I was was killing me, and living as a fugitive from my own heart was eating my insides to the point of emotional and spiritual death. I couldn’t even fathom at the time that I had painstakingly started on a journey of epic proportions. All I knew, in the depth of my aching soul, is that I would die of inauthenticity if I didn’t escape the harrowing torture. Shame and fear were killing me, well before my medical diagnosis put the exclamation point on the need for a clean slate. Doubt and obsession were close bedfellows, and my life was unmanageably messy as I sulked and shivered under the cold clamp of powerlessness.

I couldn’t be more grateful for that today.

…Today I am free.

Because I broke the chains of people pleasing and self hatred, I know you can too. Have your ever felt like your entire life was someone else’s? Like you were watching some half-slated TV Drama, and you were the fresh face star no one has heard of yet? I have. I’ve heard the canned music and narration, and I’ve said my lines brashly in the full force of my ego. How? I had to drown my heart. The only way to ignore the depth of your soul is to drown it. You can suffocate your own voice for so long you forget what it sounds like. But thank all of divinity, it never goes away.

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My name is Paula Verdicchio, and this is my first blogpost for AUTHENTIC PASSION. Why write? Because when I thought I would die of inauthenticity, the words I heard through others, verbally and on paper when I was too broken to leave the house saved me. I believe in love and life and Karma and passing on what is freely given. I am compelled to share this journey with you.

I hope it paves the path for you to share yours with me. Let’s heal together.

Namaste!
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