Celebrating Jerry's Life: Living Without Anxiety

            Today, Feb 18 2021 marks the 2nd anniversary since Jerry's passing on the English calendar. For Jerry, nothing was by chance; and his date of departing was no exception. He left on his favorite number 18 (chai) – the Hebrew word for LIFE. So today, rather than embracing sadness, let us celebrate his life and teachings.

            Several days ago, I found this unpublished little gem that  Jerry wrote that contains his key teaching of how to find freedom in life and in death by facing “what is” rather than living in the grip of anxiety.

Anxiety is a necessary disruption of our equilibrium; a situation occurs that impels us to relinquish our established notions of safety and insulation. In this upheaval, we can either collapse or listen to the message. Anxiety’s maelstrom provides the needed signal; the throes of destruction awaken us to the promise of new life. As we forfeit our illusions of safety and security, we die, and only in death do we discover the possibility of rebirth. True freedom requires that we practice dying in life so that we may master death and thereby come to live eternally. We must watch the death of our habits, our errors and our beliefs. In this death, we can discover the glimmer of some essential truth about ourselves.  We then return to life in an entirely different way. This perspective of a seemingly disastrous event that lead us to ultimately defeat death underlies the Western tradition. In its first emphatic attack, anxiety can disrupt us so severely that we forget its benefits. Its cataclysmic effects can distort our judgement and adversely shadow our attention. As the anxiety seems to trap us within its winding tentacles and to stifle our breath, we can use these imagery exercises to regain our understanding:

  • Close your eyes and breathe out three times slowly.
  • See, sense and feel the net of anxiety wrapped tightly around you.
  • Breathe out one time slowly and remove the net knowing that as you do so the anxiety disappears.
  • Then, breathe out and open your eyes.

                             ***

  • Close your eyes and breathe out slowly three times.
  • See your self in the room of anxiety. Breathe out and find a door to your right.
  • Enter through it to another. Find there another door to the right.
  • Enter through it   and continue doing the same room after room until finding your room of silence.
  • Stay there a long moment, knowing the anxiety is gone. 
  • Then, breathe out and open your eyes.

 

To embrace life, Jerry taught "GO, DO".
He joyfully handed out e little  green cards, with the words "GO, DO", as reminders of taking action in life.
Jerry's dear friend, Colin Greer, captures this in his Sonnet to Jerry.

He offers a green card

He wears a green shirt

Sometimes with matching pants.

His smile is ear to ear

As the tree behind him is floor to ceiling

Like he is witnessing tikkun then and there.

In a fleeting moment his smile lifts sideways a little

When “of course”       “I’m here”

“I see the shadow you’re afraid of”

Needs to be said. And it does.

You take the green card

You recognize the shadow is yourself

You know about wholeness now

And you know what love is.

 

From Colin Greer’s Love in the Abductive Or, I wish I Could Speak Yiddish Like Satchmo

  • A poetry collection in honor of Jerry due out on Louis Armstrong’s birthday July 4 2021