Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Joy to the World

Joy to the World

On WQXR this morning I was listening to an orchestral version of Oh Holy Night -- Cantique de Noel as it's formally known. This sacred song has been a staple in my repertoire for years and I've sung it in all seasons, feeling that it's appropriate to acknowledge that every night (and day for that matter) is a "night divine" (the last lyric of the song). This rendition began with cellos playing the melody and I had a feeling that the musical director was going for a very solemn, sacred interpretation. It lightened up a bit as the piece unfolded, but, to my ear, its overall impression was quite lugubrious. And it got me to thinking about how the sacred is so often portrayed as solemn, which often feels very dark to me. And I think it should be the opposite. I think the sacred is sublime and suffused with light, and that it's here in our cultures to ignite our hearts and souls and evoke pure joy.

Joy, joy, joy -- there was a time in my life when I remember telling people I was on a quest to find joy. Where the heck was it? I didn't see it in churches for the most part. I didn't see it at social gatherings/parties. I didn't see it in the faces of people on the street. Where is joy?

Well, I had a joy-ful experience during my healing process, that, I see in retrospect, paved the way for my meeting Hilda Charlton. I had been on my joy quest for a few years and had participated in several "consciousness raising" events. I was reading a lot of metaphysics -- my hero at the time being Ralph Waldo Emerson. And I remember lying on the living room rug one Saturday afternoon and imagining that I had light shooting out of every pore of me in every direction, reaching way up into space and deep into the Earth, (somewhere I must have read about a meditation like this); and when I came back from this imaging, I felt a joy inside me, the likes of which I had never felt before. This extraordinary state lasted for about 2 weeks. I was so open and feeling so wonderful and loving, and everything in my life was delicious, and not one thing had changed in my external circumstances. It was truly a time of grace for which I'm profoundly grateful. And I know it was a carrot that the Universe allowed me to munch for a while so that I'd "get" what the "goal" was -- that completely anchored and safe inner space of joy and peace.

It truly does surpass all understanding. It's a wow!

There was a magical voice teacher at one point in my career. He was a wonderfully insightful and playful man/musician and a world-class teacher of Carl Jung's work. He had the most eminent Jungians in town coming to sit and counsel with him. Our times together each week were astounding, I would be with him for about an hour and a half and sing for maybe 25 minutes. The rest of the time we were delving into my psyche and exploring my dream worlds. It was fabulous. These sessions seemed so out of time and space for me, that I once had the thought that if I went back to his apartment, having left my gloves or something, that he wouldn't even be there -- the apartment would look totally different and a complete stranger would answer the door.

Anyway, this is all preamble to his encouraging me one day to attend a prestigious Jungian event that was being held on the upper east side of Manhattan. I was thrilled to be in the presence of these outstanding therapists and to hear them discussing the works of the brilliant Carl Jung. And I could barely stay awake -- and I'm never bored! Talk about sacred and solemn and grindingly intellectual. Arg! Jung's work was transcendent/translucent -- he was talking about spirit most of the time. And somehow that got, and often gets, translated into solemn and heavy. And the joy is missing -- the light is missing. I feel that this has happened in many of our religious traditions also.

Whenever we sing "Let There Be Peace On Earth" at our peace meetings, I always loudly, as if to eventually turn the tide, insert the word joyful for solemn -- the lyrics of the second half of the hymn being:
Let there be peace on earth, let this be the moment now
With every step I take, let this be my solemn (joyful) vow
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

I think joyful vows are much more "hearty" than solemn vows and much more liable to be honored. So I propose that we take all the furrowed brows out of our vows and other "serious" areas of our lives. There's no getting away from the chaos and darkness that seem to be prevailing in our world at this time, but our getting gloomy and heavy about it doesn't help one iota.

As Martin Luther King said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I say: "Solemn cannot drive out solemn; only joy can do that." Think about it: Wouldn't we all rather be joyful than solemn? I do believe that we can "take life seriously" and live with great integrity and purpose and still be in joy. It's our birthright. To unleash it, we sincerely need to acknowledge its presence deep within us and allow it to bubble up. Surely, it'll take some practice and a commitment from us, but we can do it. And the rewards will be stunning. Let's all be Joy to each other and our World!

Whenever in Doubt, Come Home to your Heart,

Elizabeth Hepburn

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Before, After, Forevermore

Before, After, Forevermore

The three products inaugurating Elizabeth Hepburn’s Better & Better Series, are filling a unique and valuable niche. The first two volumes of this DVD/CD series, which feature inspiring music, gorgeous scenery and guided meditations, are designed to promote the optimal results from surgical procedures and the subsequent recuperation period. Volume 3, In the Lap of Luxury, was created for anyone desiring to sustain good health throughout life. ~ ~ ~
Volume 1) Pre-Surgery Healing Support Programs - DVDs & CDs (audio version) Two Better & Better Guidebooks* For Patient and Caregiver

Volume 2) Post-Surgery Healing Support Programs - DVDs & CDs Two Better & Better Guidebooks For Patient and Caregiver

Volume 3) In the Lap of Luxury - DVD and CD Program to sustain radiant health, In The Lap Of Luxury Better & Better Guidebook For Anyone and Everyone*The Better & Better Series Guidebooks contain information designed to support and enhance the experience of the programs.

One of the things that makes Volumes 1 & 2 truly special is that the caregivers have their very own product with the same visuals and music as the patients, but with guided meditations designed to address their specific needs. Clearly during this stressful time, caregivers need healing too. Also, due to the physical separation and the restrictions inherent in hospital protocol, loved ones often feel isolated from each other. The sharing of their individual responses to this inspiriing Better & Better Series material is intended to create a warm and loving bond between them whenever they’re together.

Because the beauty of Nature is such a natural healer, the Pre-Surgery program utilizes the healing, soothing magnificence of the ocean, beach and sky; Post-Surgery, the vibrant and powerful energy of a waterfall in Springtime; and, In the Lap of Luxury, the profound serenity of a beautiful lake.

Multiple Emmy Award-Winning Cinematographer, Bob Collins, is the Director of Photography and Elizabeth’s guided meditations are exquisitely enhanced by the original music of composer, Rick Baitz. Film/Video veteran, Ben Bryant has directed and edited the series, and Eric Brown of Creative Entertainment, Inc. has brought his business acumen, inspiring insights and wondrously enthusiastic spirit to the project.

The products will be distributed through hospitals, health organizations and doctors initially as well as to the end users through traditional retail distribution channels. If as Ralph Waldo Emerson said over a hundred years ago "The first wealth is health", it behooves us all to employ every tool available to restore, when it is challenged, and maintain and ever-expand, when it is present, our experience of vibrant aliveness and well-being. The Better & Better Series is such a resource.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Surgery as a Rite of Passage

Surgery as a Rite of Passage

Every moment in life is precious. Every single one. Even the difficult ones. Even the one when your doctor says: "We have to operate". Never good news yet an important moment in our lives. I've been there - several times. A bout with cancer necessitated my having six surgeries in four years and then three years of chemotherapy. Admittedly, this was a rough road. However, this journey through the labyrinth of critical illness and multiple surgeries truly transformed my life. It turns out that it was a great blessing to me. It was precious time. Therefore, I'm proffering a re- framing of this dreaded fate - surgery.

It's not a walk in the park, that's for sure. It's going to involve discomfort and probably pain, to say nothing of an abrupt interruption in life as usual. We're going to be weakened and not up to snuff. The anticipation of surgery is so daunting, that we almost always succumb to major resistance. There's fear - anger - sadness - "Why me?" - "Why now?" "What did I do to deserve this?"

We're aching for the answers to these questions. Nevertheless, once we've acknowledged all this upset, it behooves us to understand that resistance creates tension and a lot of suffering within the body/mind system. That's the last thing we need right now. There's a Zen teaching that says: "in this life pain is inevitable– suffering is optional". So if we choose to have this situation be as easeful as possible, we have to let go of the suffering -- to let go of the resistance and surrender to the process. As hard as it is to fathom it, this surgery experience is here for a reason. This is not an accident. And, believe me, it's not simply here to adjust something in our bodies. It's a very well disguised gift with the potential to take us on a journey to the very essence of ourselves -- a journey for which we will be eternally grateful.

It seems to me that by the time our immune systems are sufficiently compromised to require someone taking a knife to our bodies, the Universe has surely been shouting to get our attention for a long time. Our lives for many and varied reasons have gotten unbalanced and we need to regroup in a major way. I find it very interesting in these days of miracle drugs, that we can be extremely unwell but kept going by super pills or injections that mask our symptoms and allow us to continue our relentless pace. How ridiculous. Our magnificent body/mind system is giving us the message to lie down and rest deeply, and we keep truckin’. Sooner or later the condition becomes so acute we're brought to our knees. And here we are in the hospital in this silly little cotton dress anticipating surgery.

And this is where my new perspective comes into play. I'm suggesting that we consider surgery a rite of passage . Furthermore, I'm advocating that it (and all crises) be acknowledged as such. In this light, what is commonly considered an onerous situation can be acknowledged as a catalyst for wondrous transformation.

A definition of rite of passage is: a ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person's life indicative of a transition from one stage to another. As in rituals of old, there's an interesting parallel to the surgical event in that it plucks us out of our daily routine; takes us to a foreign space where we have very little control of our comings and goings; introduces us to strange substances that alter the way our bodies feel and our minds perceive; and, compels us to surrender our fate to the prevailing leadership.

I contend that instead of grinding through all that the surgical process entails, kicking and screaming until the big drugs take over, that we relax and surrender to this arduous ritual, trusting its mysterious, sacred purpose in our lives and opening up to the magnificent transition that can provide us with entry into a whole new way of being. Even if we think our lives are just fine, I assure you, our capacity for feeling fabulous is boundless. It's all about love.

Our bodies are truly magnificent. They are marvels. They are healing machines. They are constantly renewing themselves, though admittedly not so effectively when we've gotten too far out of balance. And all they want is to be appropriately cared for. They want delicious and nutritious food and drink. They want fresh air and exercise. They want rewarding work and delightful play. They want deeply satisfying rest and relaxation. And they want to be loved. Not just by our parents, friends, colleagues and significant others - they want to be loved by us!

I understand that when our bodies are hurting and giving us a lot of grief, we're not feeling all that loving toward them. But this downtime is the perfect opportunity to begin a life-long loving relationship with our body. It's time! It's imperative!

Even if you're having problems with your physical heart right now – acknowledge it – the constant, vital service it provides to your body throughout your entire life. How fantastic! Say "thank you" to your miraculous beating heart. Say "thank you" to your breathing – even if it may be hampered at this time – say "thank you" for this totally natural function within your body/mind system – relax and let it be as easeful as the tides in the ocean. Every organ in our bodies is unceasingly performing its specific function to sustain our well-being. It's time to say, "thank you" – "I love you" – "I'm so grateful for all you do". Yes. Smile. Breathe. Your body is feeling better already.

Right this moment decide that this surgery is your personal, sacred "Rite of Passage". Decide that this challenging passage is here to totally enhance your life, ultimately providing you with a glorious sense of wholeness and connection and vibrant aliveness. Decide that this "Rite of Passage" is going to deliver you to a path of such great caring and love and gratitude for yourself and others and all of life that you and your life will bloom beyond your wildest dreams. Feel the gratitude. Life – it's all about Love. Every moment is precious.
* * *
Whenever in doubt, Come Home to your Heart,
Elizabeth Hepburn
See this article published in The New Sun Newspaper - http://www.newsun.com/riteofpassage.html

Friday, November 17, 2006

Beautiful Bears

Beautiful Bears

I was riffling through a Wildlife Preservation Magazine. This particular issue had award-winning photographs of various creatures in their natural habitat. They were all spectacular, but there was one that was irresistible to me. I was totally captivated by the picture of
a polar bear and her pup in a snowy mountain landscape framed with feathery evergreen boughs. I found myself returning so often to gaze at it, that I decided to order a print. I called the magazine and they gave me the email address of the photographer and within a few days, I had my print. I was thrilled.

With a very long lens, Thomas Cooper has captured a mother polar bear sound asleep with her tiny pup, who looks like a small ball of super white fur. Its black eyes are wide open, and it's nestled between the mother's huge head and an enormous front paw. There seem to be no ears on the pup, and the nose and mouth are hidden in the mighty embrace. There's just this tiny white fur ball with big black eyes gazing out at the magnificent world with such an innocence and wonder. Completely adorable.

As the days go by, I continue to be grateful that I ordered this picture and keep asking myself why I did. I see terrific photographs in magazines all the time but I've never before felt compelled to call the magazine and email the photographer in quest of a print. What is it
here that touches me so?

The mother is obviously completely at home in her natural environment (-25̊ F). She's at peace. She's connected. And the pup seems blissfully happy in its safe, cozy haven. The picture seems to be whispering, "God's in his heaven and all's right with the world." And maybe that's it. Maybe my body/mind/spirit are so yearning to remember this all the
time -- to feel safe and cozy and at peace and connected in the midst of the churning upset energy that permeates our living space on planet earth at this time. And this picture came to live with me as a constant reminder, in a most endearing way, that despite the most challenging atmosphere, the "peace and safe and cozy and connected" are always here -- now, the instant I acknowledge my inner life.

And I find myself revisiting my favorite theme: going within -- coming home to the heart -- connecting with the kingdom of Heaven ever present there -- stopping the relentless mind chatter -- relaxing, embracing, delighting in the feelings of silence deep within the energy
of my body. There is the true vitality -- there is the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Do it right now as you read these words. Be conscious of the energy inside your body. Be conscious that you're reading. Be conscious that you're breathing.

Stop reading for a few moments and just be here now, totally in the present. Feel the stillness.

The authenticity and serenity of the bears, so at peace on their snowy mountain in Manitoba, Canada (may this scenario remain so), bless and inspire me every time I look at them. They invite me to hear the silence, to feel the exhilarating crisp, clear air -- to sense their
ease. They remind me of the lyrics of the Bernstein/Sondheim song Somewhere: "Peace and quiet and open air wait for us, somewhere." They remind me that that place is deep within me and they make me grateful that that Kingdom of Heaven is still reflected in certain parts of our world. They remind me of the sacredness of these pristine wildernesses and their many life forms. They remind me that we are to be the stewards of this earth and her creatures, and not despoil them with our shortsightedness and greed.

How can we even begin to imagine that we can rape and poison the very earth that feeds us, gives us air to breathe and water to drink, and continue to live? The bears remind me to pray without ceasing that our collective consciousness will wake up in time to save Mother Earth and all the life manifesting upon her. May we embrace and honor our role as nurturer to the Nurturer. Thank you, glorious bears. Thank you, Thomas. Thank you, Beloved Earth.

To contact Thomas Cooper: www.thomas@coopersimages.com

Whenever in doubt, Come Home to your Heart
Elizabeth Hepburn

Monday, October 9, 2006

"Thank You Deepak and Hilda"

Dr. Deepak Chopra is one of my heroes. With his medical education and practice based firmly in the West and his deeply spiritual insights rooted in Eastern philosophies, his mark on alternative/complementary medicine has been stunning. Through his "Quantum Healing" work, bolstered by the breakthrough science of Quantum Mechanics, he has brought to the masses the same information I received from spiritual teachings thousands of years old. Information that saved my life.

I was sitting on a commercial set waiting for the next shot when another actor sat down and started talking to me about metaphysics. I was completely enthralled. At the end of the day he encouraged me to attend Hilda Charleton's meditation class which was held every Thursday evening at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. That very week, I walked into this exquisite edifice and felt immediately that I was going to find joy here. I felt a sigh of relief flow through my entire system, as if I'd finally "come home."

After one year of being with the extraordinary Hilda, receiving the teachings and the glorious energy she lavished upon everyone she encountered, I removed myself from a chemotherapy program I'd been on for three years. I felt strongly that I no longer needed it and assured my fainting doctors I'd come more frequently for check-ups. My intuition was accurate and, thank God, I've been fine ever since.

Hilda's religion was love, and her teachings were grounded in the ancient spiritual concepts of the East. All is Spirit – there is no "matter" – everything in the Universe is energy. Our bodies, as dense as they may seem, are whirling atoms of energy, our cells responding constantly to our thoughts and the feelings engendered by them. Dark, negative thoughts – anger, jealousy, fear, etc. -- impede the natural harmonious flow in our bodies creating a lack of ease – eventually dis-ease. Choosing to hang out with positive thoughts, regardless of the current circumstances, keeps the energy moving. Our state of being is not as dependent on what is happening in our lives, as it is on our perceptions and thoughts and feelings about those happenings. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "We are what we think about all day long."

It thrills me that respected members of our scientific community are now giving us the same picture of the Universe as did the ancient spiritual Masters. Everything is energy -- pulsating energy. And it's my experience that our conscious awareness and grateful acknowledgement of this infinite energy, unceasingly moving through our bodies, can save our lives. It did mine. (Thank you, Hilda. Thank you, Dr. Chopra.)

On 60 Minutes, when the wonderful Ed Bradley greeted Dr. Andrew Weill's explanation of the body/mind connection with a skepticism bordering on disdain, I was simultaneously shocked, saddened and filled with gratitude. I realized that I don't believe in the body/mind connection. I know it.

Elizabeth Hepburn

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Get better & better - Healthwise Magazine

"Elizabeth Hepburn believes her bout with cancer was a blessing. She learned to take responsibility for her own health, and is now a Wellness Facilitator assisiting others. Her Better & Better series on DVD provides solace and healing for both patients and caregivers during a very painful period of life. Visit www.elizabethhepburn.com "


Often, since the numbing shock of September 11, 2001, I've found myself dancing with the word "trust," and within its resonance there has been great solace. To me there's something much larger going on here than even the entire world being in the grips of imminent danger. And that has to do with the reaction/response that each and every one of us has to this potential threat to our very existence.

We, truly, are the world. Our collective consciousness, or perhaps more accurately, our collective unconsciousness, has been creating the scenarios on our Earth for millennia. And now, with our backs literally to the wall, we face our greatest challenge and, potentially, our finest hour. It's time for each of us to step up to the plate and play our part in raising the consciousness of the entire planet.

"But what can we do?" we cry out. We're only human, with all those incumbent frailties and shortcomings. And to that I say, "No!" It's time to get off that one, and admit, acknowledge and claim that we are also, and most importantly, divine. We are spirit beings as well as human beings, and have immediate access to The Power, The Source, God -- however we wish to label the Divine Presence -- every second of every day. It dwells very peacefully within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has said:"There is a principle which is the basis of all things -- which all speech aims to say and all action to evolve -- a simple undescribed, undescribable Presence dwelling very peacefully in us, our Rightful Lord. We are not to do, but to let do; not to work, but to be worked upon; and to this homage there is a consent of all thoughtful and just men of all ages and conditions.

"To me this dark and difficult "night" is the grandest opportunity ever presented to the human race to -- once and for all -- embrace and be willing to embody Who We Really Are. We're in the midst of a major earth drama to be sure, but the more we can expand into the larger context, the infinite, sacred context which is pregnant with both the mysterious and the miraculous, the less that anxiety and fear will incapacitate us.

We can choose to hold the perspective that the enormous upset and dis-ease currently raging throughout our world has as its purpose to cleanse and uplift humanity to an awesomely beautiful level of love and understanding and brotherhood. And here is where trust comes in. We need to allow ourselves to trust this arduous process. We need to relax into that trust -- to breathe, to let go, to trust.

Every day, even for only five or ten minutes, lie down on your bed, on your office floor -- whatever -- and make yourself as comfortable as possible:

Place your arms away from the body,palms upturned, legs uncrossed, a real 'let go' position. (If lying down is not an option, do this in a comfortable sitting position.)

Close your eyes and take a slow deep breath in and release it with a sigh.

Sigh out any angst, letting a smile come to your face.

Let the sigh be audible, if possible -- letting yourself "let go," sinking into the bed or floor, really relaxing.

Do this three times, letting yourself become more and more relaxed with each exhalation.

Now breathe naturally, and slowly begin to notice your breathing: how miraculous, how mysterious is this ever-constant breathing.

Say thank you for being breathed.Then notice your beating heart: how miraculous, how mysterious is this beating heart.

Say thank you to the Source of this wonder.

Now notice the energy pulsing through your entire body.

Feel that you are claiming your oneness with Life itself and say thank you to the Source of this energy that permeates the Universe -- the miracle, the mystery, the majesty of which we are all an intrinsic part.

Now, simply and innocently, trust. Trust that you are one with the Infinite Presence. Trust that It is guiding you to be at the right place at the right time. Trust that we are all giving birth to a new and most glorious way of being in this world. Trust that there will be joy for all, and that boundless creativity will be available for manifestations that will thrill us beyond our wildest dreams. Trust that the Innate Intelligence within your heart and mind will act through you with great courage and integrity in the face of any challenge. And always, in all ways, trust that you are never alone.

Whenever in doubt, Come Home to you Heart
Elizabeth Hepburn

Thursday, September 28, 2006


"You've got to be tough, kid."

These were the last words that Hilda, my spiritual teacher, ever said to me. (Hilda Charlton called everyone "kid"' whether you were three or a hundred and three.)

Two years later on the set of a TV show, I discovered that one of the cameramen had worked on the Mother Teresa documentary that so many of us have seen on PBS. When I queried him about his impressions of this iconic spiritual being, his first words were, "She's tough."

Then there was Oprah interviewing Will Smith, who was sharing his experiences preparing for, and shooting the film Ali. He was radiant in both mind and body -- at the very peak of his form, he felt. He spoke of the arduousness of his process -- not only the relentless physical training necessary to portray this legendary athlete but equally, if not more challenging, getting inside the psyche of the awesome, much-bigger-than-life, Mohammed Ali. He recounted times when he was so totally exhausted he felt that he could not continue another second. He'd find himself repeatedly saying deep inside: "Do you want to be champ?" And the answer came: "Yes!" "Do you want to be champ?" "Yes!"

The answer was always "yes" and he'd keep on truckin'. Tough! (I'm not sure whether this motivating technique was Ali's or Will's. In any event, tough!)

And finally, I came across a Time magazine dated June 18, 2001. I'd archived it because of the cover story which was of Eric Weihenmayer's Mt. Everest climb. Eric was 33 years old at the time and he'd been blind since he was 13. To me, there are no words to even begin to describe the unmerciful trials inherent in scaling Mt. Everest under the best of circumstances. But sightless? Mind boggling! He made it to the summit. Tough. One of the sentences in the article stated, "On Everest, toughness is perhaps the most important trait a climber can have."

There seemed to be a theme here.

The first dictionary definition my eyes fell upon defined tough as, "so strong and resilient as to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking." I liked that. Strong and resilient make the word tough much more palatable.

I, for one, was not raised to be "tough." My mother and father would not be amused at all. But strong and resilient -- now that's totally appropriate; and in our current circumstances on the planet, a must for the life scenario into which we were so brashly thrust on September 11, 2001. As a race of people, I feel that all of us are now being called upon to toughen up and roll with the political and economic punches that are assailing our peace of mind.

And there's the pertinent word. No matter how physically strong we are, or well-trained and fed and nurtured our bodies are, it's our minds that are running the show. And fear and depression and worry, and all those negatives that hover so near these days, cannot be allowed "air time" in our precious minds. They're destroyers -- they disempower us. Certainly we have to acknowledge that they're there and not stuff them. But the trick is then to focus our minds on the positive and the creative. Do you want to be champ? Oh yes. Whatever that equivalent is in our own lives, we need to fly with that -- giving our all to whatever we're involved in at the moment -- having a sense of our own being and becoming, and making decisions about our priorities and dreams.

"More than doers we are deciders," says The Book of Runes, the oracular writings that many refer to as the Celtic I Ching. So let us decide this moment that, whatever travail may present itself, we'll take a few deep breaths -- breathing in all the power and courage the Universe has to offer us, exhaling the fear, anxiety and upset -- and then respond to the situation from a place of wisdom, strength and resiliency. Our tuning into the energies of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and, the aforementioned, Mother Teresa would be most helpful. And let me not exclude Joan of Arc from that list. Invoking the courage of St. Joan is extraordinarily powerful.

One of the characters in Victor VillaseƱor's brilliant book, Rain of Gold says, "Some people think that the things of the heart are so delicate that they must be handled with care. I say that the heart is tough and vigorous, overflowing with life's juices, so we must be tough and decisive and get to the heart of the matter or we lose everything."

To me, the heart is the higher intelligence. In coming home to our hearts at this time on this Earth, I feel it's imperative that we act with a heightened sense of alertness and vitality so as not to "lose everything". Let's have a divine toughness join the repertoire of love, tenderness, caring and compassion deep in our hearts. Let's all decide to be of good cheer, of clear and decisive mind and, most of all, of courageous and strong heart. Let's be "champ". Let's be tough!

Whenever in doubt, Come Home to you Heart
Elizabeth Hepburn

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I Have A Dream

I have a dream. And I had a dream. Let me tell you about the "had" first.

In late January, I dreamt I was flying/hovering/gliding inside the Grand Canyon in a sort of futuristic helicopter, like a glass bubble. I could see in every direction -- even below me. I was completely engulfed in the grandeur. It was totally mind-boggling and exhilarating, and I awakened feeling both excited and frustrated. Frustrated that despite having been geographically close on several occasions, I'd never had the time to get there, and excited about finally going. I knew it would be soon.

On March 1st, I flew to Phoenix and joined my dear friend, Joanie, who was already in the southwest visiting our mutual friends, Jennifer and Andy and Jen's mother, Florence. Their most kind and generous hospitality embraced us on either side of our sojourn to the Canyon. Thank you, beautiful people.

The drive through the red rock country, especially Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, was as spectacular as I'd remembered it, and within a half hour of reaching our destination, Joanie and I were walking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon!

It was a brilliantly clear, cold day and we hiked along the, sometimes quite precarious, path for about four hours into the setting sun. I had come equipped with notepad and pen, and tape recorder with empty cassette prepared to record all the inspiration that would surely come to me at this awesome world-wonder. And the only words that came that day and the entire next day were: "Oh my God. Oh, my God." Every few feet, every time I'd look away for a moment and then back at the Canyon again, it was different.

The sunlight bathing the walls is slightly different -- the colors subtly change; the shapes reconfigure. "Oh my God." I'm practically weeping in joy and overwhelm. There are no words to describe this.

The day we had to leave, Joanie insisted we stop on the way out of the park at the Kaibab Trail, where she and Jen and Andy had descended to the Canyon floor a few years before. Being that it was off season and quite chilly, we were completely alone and I stood mesmerized for about 30 minutes. I didn't ever want to leave. (Thinking about it now, it reminds me of when I saw Michelangelo's David in Florence. My sense is I'd still be standing there if I hadn't had a plane to catch.)

As I stood alone in the magnificence, I began to feel that the profound peace and stillness I was experiencing was unceasingly being poured forth into the ethers from the very bowels of the Canyon -- from every nook and cranny, from every rock face, from every craggy little plant, from every 80 foot tree growing out of sheer rock! It felt like this most sacred place was a gigantic prayer bowl constantly breathing peace into the atmosphere of our Planet. "Oh, my God."

Which brings me to the dream I'm "having." This is a waking dream. My Peace dream.

Long before the Canyon "call," I had a very moving experience in the theatre one evening, I became acutely aware of the enormous energy that's generated in live performance. In the midst of this epiphany I got how totally wonderful and valuable it would be to dedicate this stupendous power to World Peace. And to that end, I've been contacting everyone I can think of in theatre and the arts in NYC with this proposal:

The powerful energy that's created in live performance is undeniable. I propose that this energy, generated hundreds of times a week in theatres all over the city, be dedicated to World Peace.

At this most crucial time on our earth, I feel that it could have an enormous impact on the collective consciousness.

It would simply be a matter of having a sign back stage (and perhaps in the lobby) in all our theatres stating: This Performance Is Dedicated To World Peace, in addition to including this statement in the pre-show, "turn off your beepers" announcement.

That's it! Nothing else to do. This would give every performance another dimension and a focus of deep caring and compassion. We can't even begin to imagine the positive repercussions that could result from this subtle, recurring message.

I see this being implemented in our Broadway and Off- Broadway theatres, at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, in Stadiums and ultimately all over our country and the world. Why not? With violence escalating at a dizzying pace, we must start giving Peace some major PR. And with the eyes of the world on NYC since 9/11, this is surely the place to begin. It would serve as yet another expression of, and tribute to, the generous and indomitable spirit of both our great city and the theatre community. It's also a natural tie-in to the "I Love New York" campaign.

I wrote this in April, 2002 and our world was writhing in anguish. It seems to still be so. And although this idea has not taken root yet, I'll never give up on it. And as I strive to make This Performance Is Dedicated to World Peace a happening in the Big Apple, I'm sharing it here hoping that the concept will catch on and start popping up all over the country -- performances/gatherings in community theatres, universities, high schools -- wherever this powerful focus of energy is created -- all being dedicated to World Peace. I repeat: Why not?

Let us decide that we've had enough of the horror. Let us, please, not sit back and passively accept that for at least the next 20 years our world will be at war, and our beloved country will be relentlessly building more and more sophisticated instruments of destruction. What an aberrant use of our divine creative energy. We know that violence begets violence. How could this possibly be the answer?

Shifting the consciousness in our world is the answer. Shifting the focus of our minds and hearts, which influences the actions we take, to peace and love and beauty and brotherhood is the answer. Shortly after 9/11, Ryan Kelly of the NYC Ballet wrote: "I'm trying to breathe peace more than ever this year - like rain forests that oxygenate the earth, peace- breathers might pacify the planet ..." Let us all become peace-breathers and dedicate our very breath and all the energies that we create in communion with each other to World Peace. The world needs us. If the Grand Canyon can do it, so can we.

In 1963, in his legendary I Have A Dream speech, Martin Luther King said: "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force." Oh, Yes! Thank you, Dr. King.

Whenever in doubt, Come Home to your Heart
Elizabeth Hepburn

I Am Therefore I Love

"I am therefore I love" came to me while walking in the park one day. So many "hits" come to me in the park -- Central Park, that is. I love this park, smack in the middle of Manhattan, and feel that its preciousness -- (how its exquisite natural beauty incessantly serves the city) -- is incalculable.

So there I was briskly walking along, breathing in the trees and grasses, listening to the many bird songs, and I hear the words: "I think therefore I am; I am therefore I love." What was that? "I think therefore I am; I am therefore I love." Oooh, I like that, thank you. And I've been living with this phrase ever since, particularly the "I am therefore I love" part.

It's clear to me that we've all got "I think" down pretty well. We know that we are conscious beings, perceptive to the world which we inhabit and able to choose and, in many cases, manipulate certain aspects of our lives. It's also very clear to me that it's time to raise the bar.

"I think" is not nearly enough, "I love" is what we're up to now. And this can make life as wonderful as it gets.

I'm not talking about romantic love here, though that's a beautiful expression of this energy. I'm talking about our living in the context of this "glue of the Universe" love -- the energy that we're intrinsically connected to, couldn't get away from if we wanted to, that pulses through every cell of our bodies, vibrates in everything that exists everywhere, energy.

Just for a moment, stop, be very still, as if you were deep in a forest listening to the silence there, and notice your beating heart. Really stop reading for a moment, just let your vision go soft and be ultra alert to these pulsations. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed with gratitude for this most pivotal organ in your body and the invaluable contribution it makes to your aliveness. I perceive it as such a miracle, this physical heart. And now with my training, I daily acknowledge and let my consciousness come to rest within its housing -- the entire chest cavity, metaphysically referred to as the heart center.

My email signature quite spontaneously became "Whenever in doubt, Come Home to your Heart" probably because I know that the love and spirit indwelling our hearts is the ultimate panacea. And what coming home to your heart feels like is abandoning all the buzz in the brain and just sinking into the heart center as if the entire chest cavity were this cradle of tender love energy ever available to embrace and renew us. It is!

Sometimes, when I close my eyes to do this, I imagine myself on a dock on Lake George (Lake George is right up there with Central Park for me -- it was responsible for my first spiritual opening). It's a balmy summer evening, the moon is casting a path of shimmering light on the still waters, the fragrance of pine trees in the delicious clear air refreshes my body with every gentle breath I breathe, and I'm completely relaxed into a chaise lounge made of soft pink down. This scenario of beauty plays out within my heart center, and I'm enfolded in its love for a time. So renewing and healing. Try it. Or create your own "relax into love" scene.

As far as I'm concerned there's nothing more important than love. And regardless of our personal vocations in life, I feel that our core purpose is discovering what a force this love is and expressing it everyday, everywhere to everyone and everything. It's a choice, it's a gift, it's the healing balm for our earth. In the musical comedy Plain and Fancy there's a song called "Follow Your Heart." As a singer I was very drawn to this song -- the wisdom in these lyrics by Arnold Horwitt touched me so.

The heart has reasons the mind cannot know
Follow your heart wherever it wants you to go
Lost in the night you wonder what path to take
Till a whisper comes through Come out of the darkness into the day
Your heart knows the way -- Follow your heart.

Because of my own healing experience, I know the heart is the way. I feel that it's our higher intelligence and totally subscribe to our learning to think with our hearts and love with our minds. When we follow our hearts we're being guided by love, the Universal Force, and not by our societal conditioning and knee-jerk reactions to life. The wisdom of the ages is available to us the more we listen here; and regardless of the prevailing winds in our lives, we find ourselves responding with care and compassion to the relentless flood of stimuli present in our everyday encounters.

The truth is we already are Love. We just don't know it. So the trick is deciding every morning to be a lover, an anonymous lover. No proselytizing, no placards -- quite unassumingly having our modus operandi be love and kindness and excellence, and giving and living from our hearts each day. Winston Churchill words ring so true: "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." For me, giving love is the only way back to sanity and wholeness. And the best news of all is that as we give, we receive. Love is its own reward.

Imagine what a fund of love we will amass for our lives and our world when we invest in our loving hearts each morning by embodying the resolve that:
Each and everyday I am giving and receiving more love. Here I am, world, and I am here to love. Simply because I Am -- I Love.

Whenever in doubt, Come Home to you Heart
Elizabeth Hepburn

Originally published in The New Sun Newspaper - http://www.newsun.com/

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Heart Is Where Home Is

In all of my work, I encourage, invite, and cajole people to come home to their hearts -- to the love in their hearts. Ultimately, I feel it's the most valuable journey one will ever take.

It's no accident to me that in the romance languages the word for heart is cor, core, coeur, and that Webster's definitions of the English word "core" include:
1) the inmost part of something and
2) the most important part.

In the framework of my orientation, this leads me to conclude that the very core of us is our heart, the inmost -- the most important part. So as a paradigm shift from the adage "Home is where the heart is," I hereby offer, "The heart is where home is." It seems to me that until our life is aligned with our heart, we're a house divided against itself.

Strictly from a physical point of view, the incessant beating of our heart plays an inestimable role in the overall well-being of the body. And clearly, it's where we feel the experience of love -- romantic love, mother love, the bond we feel for a beloved pet. Now, to my great delight, research scientists at The Institute of Heart Math in Boulder Creek, CA, are telling us that the heart generates the strongest electromagnetic field produced by the body. Moreover, this field becomes even more coherent as the individual shifts to a loving or caring state. This data corroborates what metaphysicians have been telling us forever.

The physical heart is housed in an energy center referred to as the heart center. This center is considered our gateway to spirit and to the most powerful and creative energy in the Universe: Love . It's here that we connect with our Source. This is home.

Several years ago at a Dr. Brugh Joy lecture I received an exquisite gift. His theme that evening had been expanding our awareness of the heart energy. At one point, he had us sitting with our right hand on our heart center (the very center of the chest cavity), feeling the subtle variances in the energies of love there. Slowly, one at a time, he had us tune into Compassion. Tenderness. Gratitude. Joy. Each elicited a slightly different feeling. The next morning I was recapturing this glorious meditation process, and prompted, I'm sure, by this familiar "pledge" pose, these words came to me: "I pledge allegiance to the love in my heart -- to the wonder of wonders within me -- and to the divinity in all life -- One God, One Truth, One Love -- Now and forevermore."* I was so moved by the simplicity of this statement, I repeated it to myself several times and before I entered into my daily routine, wrote it down.

It's my contention that this pledge is what we're up to now. What could possibly be more worthy of our allegiance than love and the deep caring and compassion that love engenders? It will save our lives; it will heal our planet. We sing "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me" and my prayer is for us to finally embody that phrase -- to truly claim our connectedness to all of life through the spirit of love that beats our hearts, and breathes us, and moves the tides, and blooms the flowers. It's all the same energy -- the essential energy of the Universe. God, The Force, The Source, Spirit -- whatever we wish to call it. It's time we make a covenant with that intrinsic part of ourselves.

The Indian master, Sri Nisargardatta Maharaj says: "If we are serious about the sufferings of mankind, we must perfect the only means of help we have, ourselves." In this tiny village of a world we inhabit, all of creation is beckoning us to be a blessing to each other and to our earthly home each day -- to pledge our allegiance first and foremost to Love, the Love in our own hearts. Love is the power. Love is the healer. Love is the answer. Come Home to your Heart.

Whenever in doubt, Come Home to you Heart
Elizabeth Hepburn

Originally published in the New Sun Newspaper http://www.newsun.com

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Let Peace Begin

"An open heart, an open mind, just being kind -- and peace begins" are the opening lyrics to And Peace Begins, a song by Paul Trueblood, a fabulous musician who every Sunday morning for years played piano at the Unity service at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC. I love this song because its message tells us that peace begins right here, right now in our own hearts and minds and in everything we do. World Peace begins at home.

Several years ago, on two separate occasions within the space of about ten days, people shared with me that they thought that world peace would be boring. I was initially stunned and then jostled to an awakening that this was indeed a very prevalent thought: that somehow many of us needed the titillation of frightening scenarios and upheaval and chaos, albeit usually second hand, to make us feel alive. I felt that this concept created an insidiously powerful energy field that unwittingly fueled the upset and cycle of violence all over this planet.

I remember sharing my concern with my spiritual teacher, Hilda Charlton, and she said: "You're absolutely right, dear - you must talk about this at our next peace meeting." (Hilda had created a Meditation Evening for World Peace which met -- and still does -- on the equinoxes and solstices of the year.) I immediately reminded her that I "sing," I don't "talk," to which she replied: "It's about time you spoke up, dear." Her words ring in my ears to this day. So with great trepidation, at the next peace meeting, I actually "spoke up," and I've been speaking up ever since. Thank you, Hilda.

On that auspicious night (for me), I shared what I'd told Hilda. World Peace would be boring?! I went on to explain that I understood that many feel that peace is boring because of its relentless identification with death ("may they rest in peace"), or the images of the serenity and otherworldliness of the monastic life, which the word often evokes. But these many have never experienced the adventures of inner space and the peace, to say nothing of the love, joy, ecstasy -- I could go on and on -- that become available when one is willing to be quiet and dive deeply within. There's nothing like it. Here one discovers that peace is far from boring. Peace is thrilling. Peace is not the absence of violence or upset, it is a vital state that combines an infinite sense of ease with a heightened awareness of aliveness. It is a deep well spring within us from which profound creativity emerges. It is a state that is unceasingly available to us.

So the trick is dismantling the mass consciousness that contends that violence, incessant activity and excitement-seeking are what make life worth living. In my opinion, this franticness serves as a smoke screen, preventing us from ever dealing with Who We Really Are.

I'm reminded of Nelson Mandela quoting Marianne Williamson's words in his 1994 Inaugural Speech: "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate; our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us..."

The reality that we are powerful beings is scary to us. We don't want to assume that kind of responsibility. However, the time has come -- big time -- for us to march right through that fear. And even though it takes guts and a sense of daring to explore the depths of ourselves, the rewards that flow spontaneously, as the space within us expands, are boundlessly exhilarating.

Our addiction to the excitement of violence can't hold a candle to the energy that accompanies our acceptance of the light that we are. The personal power and mastery available as our lives unfold as expressions of peace and kindness and compassion are awesome and genuinely thrilling.

The world needs us now. We are collectively hosting disastrous events with potentially catastrophic consequences. It behooves each of us to own our place in this unfolding drama, and, in our unique way, be willing to be instruments of peace. To quote Paul Trueblood again: "Don't look for peace in foreign lands; it happens here where we are living. And all it takes is our forgiving; it has to start with you and me." In addition to "It's time to stand up and be counted," I recommend "It's time to sit down, be quiet and listen." Thousands of years ago, Pythagorus advised us: "Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb." And to this I say, "Amen!"

The stakes are very high now. So for our beloveds, for our world, for future generations, let us do whatever we need to do to dive into and enthusiastically embrace peace in all its guises and spread its healing everywhere we go. Let Peace Begin. Right here. Right now.

Whenever in doubt, Come Home to you Heart
Elizabeth Hepburn

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I had earmarked Tuesday morning, September 11th, to complete this column. For weeks I'd been jotting down thoughts and this was to be the time to collate them. At the top of the page I had written the word "Imagine" and my first musings had been some of the key words in John Lennon's song:
Imagine all the people living for today 
Imagine all the people living life in peace 
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

There were other notes all aimed at using our brilliant imaginations to create more beauty and fulfillment in our personal lives and ever expanding love and peace in our world.

And then it happened!

In certain circles John's song wasn't, and still isn't, well received. His lyrics speak of imagining no countries -- no religions -- the very source of identity for many of us. But John's whole thrust here, it seems to me, is encouraging us to be here now – today – with peace in our hearts and love in our minds. To share this world openly, freely, and with great delight. No more separation – no more arrogance that declares, "I'm better than you because I belong to this religion or live in this country."

The truth is that we are family on this tiny, precious planet and he knew that. He knew that "we are all one." And anything that obscures, denies, or defiles that innate connection and brotherhood is counterproductive to the natural flow of life.

If you're reading this column it's no accident, and you've got work to do. We all do. This is why we're here now. Certainly we have to search our hearts for ways in which we can be helpful to our fellow beings at this crucial time and move forth to do that. But most of all, we need to Imagine.

On Friday evening, Sept. 14th, 2001 all over this country and in many parts of our world, candles were lit in an outpouring of spirit that sent light forth into the darkness. We can be doing that with our thoughts constantly. Light literally emanates from us when we think upon love and peace and all the positive energies.

So begin today to imagine that you are a bearer and beacon of light. See and feel that light is emanating from the center of your chest, what is metaphysically referred to as your heart center. Imagine it like a gigantic search light, and focus it wherever you choose. (You can do this anywhere, anytime -- walking down the street, sitting on the bus, doing the dishes, making the bed, etc. You don't have to be at a prayer meeting or in meditation.)

Also imagine that the light of compassion is pouring from your eyes everywhere you look and that light flows from your hands healing everything you touch. Imagine your "heart search light" flowing into those who are grieving the loss of loved ones and profoundly comforting them. See it descending upon ground zero, assisting the courageous beings who are working there with such relentless determination. See it blessing and releasing those who so abruptly lost their lives. See it bringing hope and new vision to those whose lives have been drastically shattered. See it filling the hearts and minds of all our world leaders with inspiration and great wisdom at this most pivotal hour.

Imagine that you are sending forth light to encircle our earth and rain down a soothing balm that, now and forevermore, heals the anger and hatred that source such egregious acts. Imagine.

Imagine that this time we finally wake up; we get it. Imagine that this time we recognize and claim that the love, the beauty, the deep compassionate caring that become our modus operandi in times of great crisis is who we really are. Imagine that this time we shift into that way of being, always.

Imagine that this is the catalyst that transforms the consciousness of the entire planet. "Imagine all the people sharing all the world" in love, harmony and understanding.

Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than information. Imagine that your mind and heart and every fiber of your being is a healing instrument. It is when you say so. Be the Light.