All posts by Lisa Kohn

This breath. Just this breath. This breath is all I need.

It’s really that simple. What else do I need?

I think I need so much more. I look outside – and inside – for something to soothe me. Or something to excite me. I look for meaning, connection, purpose. I look for healing, comfort, ease. I look for someone to make it all “better” for me.

But all I need is this breath. And this one. And this one.

Because in each conscious breath I am grounded. In each conscious breath I realize I am whole.

With each breath I simply note that I am alive, and – perhaps because I’ve trained my mind and soul to do so – with each breath I see joy and beauty. I feel love and peace.

I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I don’t have to heal from yesterday. I can be in this moment, and know that – at least for just right now – I am okay.

As I share with clients, again and again, I do believe our fears and reactive tendencies are safety mechanisms. My need to read the environment and “handle the situation” (even when I’m not in a “situation”) is a learned behavior that kept me safe when I was young. There was turmoil and danger around me. I was, at least in some ways, threatened. With parents who didn’t seem to put my welfare first (or second…or anywhere high on the list), I learned to be always on guard.

And I’ve learned that I don’t have to do that – or be that – any more. I’ve developed a new learned behavior. It’s called breathing.

Just this breath. And this one. And this one.

I’ve trained myself to breathe and relax. I’ve taught myself to breathe and notice that I am safe – or if I’m not, to do something about what’s going on that comes from mindfulness, wholeness, and love, rather than from fear. I’ve realized, and I remember, that pushing against against my fear only makes it worse. That criticizing myself for reacting only makes my reactions stronger. That fighting my need to fight only makes me need to fight more.

I’ve compassionately disciplined myself to allow each breath to calm me. To look for beauty so that I can open my eyes and mind to more than what I’m reacting to. To take a breath. And another. And another. And let myself know that all is well and I’m okay.

This breath. Just this breath. This breath is all I need.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

Photo by Spencer Watson on Unsplash

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Danny made me cry again

I called my father, Danny, last week to wish him happy birthday. He made me cry.

He was pleasant and somewhat engaging on the phone. Often he’s abrupt and clearly has no interest in speaking with me. I get that. It sucks, but I get it. His life is awful, and he’s understandably depressed. He’s only (now) 75 and mostly paralyzed and living in a nursing home. Who wouldn’t be depressed?

Those phone calls usually make me cry as well. This was different.

After a few minutes of decent conversation (yes, I know my expectations are low), he asked me “Are you okay?” That made me cry.

A few years ago I dealt with some health issues that made it nearly impossible for me to visit him. He’s (conveniently) about an hour’s drive away from me – it made sense at the time to put him halfway between PA and NYC. If I could, I’d move him now.

I couldn’t make the hour drive for quite some time, and every now and then I again don’t feel comfortable making it. And I guess I hadn’t been to see him in a bit (I’ve been very busy – have I mentioned that in addition to all the other wonderful, time-consuming aspects of my life, my book will be published this fall?)

To many, “are you okay?” might seem innocuous, a question to barely notice. It made me cry.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that Danny loves me. I never knew that growing up. His love was, I guess, shown in ways I didn’t understand. In his own admission, expressing love is not something he does; it’s more something he pokes fun at.

As a child, I lived with a huge hole inside of me, defining me. A hole that longed to be filled with my parents’ love. Either. Both.

So when he asked me if I was okay, I saw, heard, and felt the love. Each time I’m aware of his love, it knocks me over.

Each time I write about my longing for Danny’s love when I was little and my complete surety that that love was not there, or at least not shown, Danny’s friends – one, two, many – comment that he absolutely loved my brother and me. “He was so proud of you,” they tell me. “He talked about you all the time,” they write back. Each time it blows me away. That was not the Danny I knew. That was not the message I got. It was more rage and snide and poking.

I know enough to know why my father is crusty on the outside. Why he can’t express affection. I know that his mom “taught” him to not be as loving as he was. Every now and then he admits to me that he can’t admit to me (or anyone) how much he cares. He jokes. He teases. He neglects the simple words of love.

And then every now and then he shows me, when he asks if I’m okay. And I cry.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

Categories: Recovery

Thank you Ms. Freeman wherever you are

My teacher in fifth and sixth grade was Ms. Phyllis Freeman.

I think she was the first person to teach me to use Ms. She created a new grade for me, A-WD – “A With Distinction” because I’d gotten too many A++s. Whenever we asked if we could borrow her tape to fix our papers in class, she’d give us the tape, and then she’d come back to us ten minutes later to ask us for the tape back, because we’d asked to “borrow” it. She taught us modal verbs using the phrase, “I can, I may, I will, I shall, I must love my teacher.

I loved my teacher.

And I think she loved me.

Then when I was in sixth grade, and my life imploded, she somehow figured out, and she went out of her way to protect me and to actively love me more.

I don’t remember how or when I began to call her “Mom” (not around any of the other kids, of course), but I did. I don’t know if she knew, or how she might have known, that my mother had left us, but she stepped in to be my mom. She gave me extra hugs and affection, perhaps trying to fill my void and my need for hugs and affection.

When I spoke loving of the Unification Church, she never corrected me or chastised me. When the other kids made fun of me or questioned me after I praised Rev. Moon while presenting a New York Times article about his speech at Madison Square Garden, she quieted them or redirected the conversation.

And when I wrote a passionate essay about the beauty and joy of a weekend workshop at the Church’s estate in Barrytown, New York, her written comment on my essay was “The Unification Church is very lucky to have a loving member like you belong to it!”

How she was able to remove what must have been her disapproval of the Church and of my mother’s (and my) involvement from her interactions with me, I’m not sure. How she was able to treat me with love and kindness when she must have wanted to wrest me from the situation, the surroundings, and the people whom were taking over my mind. She had known me (and my mother) during fifth grade and must have watched in horror when I returned to sixth grade, having found the Messiah during the summer, a changed person with changed beliefs.

And yet all she did was love me. And protect me. And teach me not to “borrow” tape. I wish I could find her to thank her personally.

Thank you Ms. Freeman wherever you are.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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