When I was old enough to drive, I would take my mom to the music center to see a play or musical in downtown Los Angeles. Sometimes I would drive by skid row. The first time was just for curiosity’s sake. The second time was by accident, of course, because it was scary! The faces of those poor, sad, thin, dirty and sometimes angry people hanging out in the street with nothing but their washed-out wares were difficult to see, their hardship burning a memory into my soul. More recently, on my way to a concert at Disney Hall, I found myself driving by skid row as fast as I could because I was afraid—of what, I didn’t know. Were these people going to jump on my car, hurt me or try to suck up my blood? It’s amazing how fearful we can be toward people who are different. It’s not that I didn’t care about the homeless. I donated to food banks and the mission. In fact, I was generous with whoever would send me a plea for money accompanied by a return envelope.
Last February, I went to a “GATE” a Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) event held by Dr. Donny Epstein in San Francisco. Dr. Epstein had endorsed my book Beverly Hills Concentration Camp. He agreed to let me display my books while I attended the event. In the afternoon of the second day, we were to be completely silent. This was when we might connect with our soul’s energy. I sat in a corner watching others get their entrainments, light touches that move energy within the body, when energy quickly shot up my body forcing me to stand. I stood for a while and began to cry, not from sadness but from my body releasing what it no longer needed. Random sweet people came by with empathetic smiles giving me hugs. Then, my head started to move from side to side in a way I couldn’t control, an oscillation occurring between the two sides of my neck. Suddenly, a quick energy pushed upward and I could feel my neck lengthen and straighten, my posture correcting itself. My inner intelligence had taken over and healed me beyond my wildest expectation.
When I woke up the next morning I was exuberant, with a high vibration and a powerful knowing that my soul’s purpose was to make a difference in the world. Bathing in this idea, I looked over at my cell phone and noticed a new text. It was a message from my friend, the Shaman, asking me to participate in Homeless Outreach. I hesitated. “I don’t do that,” I thought. “I write a check and mail it. I don’t take this physical body of mine down to the danger zone.” After some thought though, I looked at the text again and quickly answered, “Of course! I’ll be there”. When I returned home from San Francisco, I told my husband I was going to help the homeless on skid row. To my pleasant surprise, he wanted to join me. This is the kind of man he is.
The next morning, we met the Shaman and many others in a parking lot downtown and sorted out our supplies before saying a prayer of protection. We walked by blocks of people living under plastic tarps, the smell of filth, sweat and urine filling our nostrils was horrible. I won’t lie, it was scary. It was sad and at times I wanted to run away. Then I saw a young white girl pop out of her makeshift tent. She smiled at me. She was about 18, had short brown hair, pale freckled skin and was missing her top front middle tooth. I froze as though I had just seen a large thick brown spider. Getting past my fear, I handed her a foil bag of warm cooked chicken, two bottles of water and a bag with fresh socks, a toothbrush, toothpaste and some snacks. “Thank you,” she said. “As I turned to leave, something came over me and I turned back.” The Shaman had given me a brand new, blanket wrapped in red ribbon to give out. “Here,” I said. “I bet you could use this blanket.” The empty space where there was once a tooth seemed to expand with her smile as I handed her the blanket. She held the blanket tight in both hands before running her hand over its fuzzy softness while staring down deep in thought. She said, “My grandma had a blanket like this.” She paused and smiled. I loved my grandma. I used to see her all the time.” It was in that moment I understood that people, even at their worst, just need someone to listen to their story. Everyone wants to be seen, heard and loved. And being homeless doesn’t make you any different.
As I moved on down the street, I noticed drug addicts lying flat under their tarps so I put water and snacks where I saw a hand reach out. When I returned home later, I thought “Why should we be helping drug addicts?” They haven’t lost their jobs or been thrown out of a hospital for no insurance. I asked the Shaman to help me understand why I should help these drug addicts who aren’t trying to help themselves.
He said “If we believe all people are one then the drug addicts are also part of us. They are the deepest darkest part of ourselves. If we help them, we help ourselves.”
This revelation made sense and expanded my awareness, another step towards my humanity, turning my own ideas into something bigger. I saw the other side of myself, a greater connection to my soul. I was another step closer to who I really am. I can go out into the world and be of service making more of a difference with my intuition, my own two hands, my book, my voice, my presence and my conviction. It’s amazing how a healing path can grow and spread. Each time we heal ourselves by doing Breathwork, meditation, NSA, and other modalities, we are changing the world little by little. And if we are lucky, we find a side of ourselves we never knew existed—unconditional love.
I am honored to be named Congressional Story Teller at Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach. My last name, Maggid, happens to mean “storyteller" in Hebrew. On the Yom Kippur high holiday, I led Mediations of the Heart, a forum in which people wrote stories and read them out loud to the congregation. The congregants were taken with the warmth, courage and emotion of each reader. It was very uplifting! The subject was, "What have you learned over the past 30 years?” Here is what I read:
Pain can be a gift— its counter intuitive I know. Yet it’s my truth.
Over the past 30 years, my journey has been a wild ride of both horrible and wonderful emotions locked up in my body hidden so deep in the tissues, blood, bones and veins that on the surface I was able to act the part of a reasonable human being, a college student, an employee, a friend, a young woman, a married woman and a mom. Holding inside myself the emotions and traumas of being the daughter of two Holocaust survivors while pretending things were fine, was my method of dealing. It worked pretty well until one fateful day when it didn’t—the day everything I had experienced manifested in unbearable pain and I was afraid I might never be able to use my left arm again. Fear set in along with the illusion Vicodin and surgery were my only hope.
It was in this state of panic I prayed to God often asking for a solution tapping into my higher power, a spiritual place I know now I can always rely on. In fact, its always been there, passed down from my ancestors and somehow intuitively instilled in me. This connection coupled with a relentless need to move forward prompted me to investigate a side of myself with whom I was unfamiliar —The real me. The one who likes to write stories, teaches breath work meditation, has her own opinions, and has a multitude of interests, often considered outside the box. This discovery was the treasure that helped me get to the other side of the pain, a place of high vibration and a greater connection to nature.
And why is this realization of the real me so important? It’s important because had I not had the chronic mind-bending pain, I might never have discovered who I really am. Pain is there to force you to pay attention to something you are ignoring. And what I learned is that you must have the courage to change, to feel into the pain without caring what other people think. This was my key to happiness, when the magic began to happen, when my feelings became more important than anyone else’s, and the brilliance of no longer being embarrassed by anything I did in the past, because it was all part of my journey.
Some people will love me and others won’t. Some people can’t put my book down while others will never pick it up. And it doesn’t matter because their reaction is all about them and not about me. It’s a matter of loving yourself, knowing you’re worth it and that you are enough. In this place of self-love, admiration and strength I am able to give more, to be more charitable, and to notice how I can assist others. In other words, I went from chronic pain to a good feeling body and wanting to be of service.
So I advise you to embrace your pain, even name your pain (I call mine Fred), make friends with your pain until the point it loves you and you love it so much that it disappears.
Pain can be a gift.
The universe provides in mysterious ways. As I was polishing and making the last edits on my book, a friend sent me this article from The Guardian about the genes of holocaust survivors' children and grandchildren being different than those of other Jews not involved in the war. It was icing on the cake to have some research back up my experience, adding another dimension to my work and the idea that what we do to our bodies today can affect the genes of our children. Breathwork and other healing modalities can help us connect, understand and even release negative energy and stress on the cellular level. This leaves the door open to many possibilities — most importantly, I think to how we can create positive change for the future!
What is it like to write stories that expose what you have always hidden and run away from your whole life?
Let me tell you, it’s scary as hell, as though you are a fresh fruit with your skin slowly being peeled off with a small knife. It’s so tough that you can’t read it out loud without choking on your words, holding back the tears and wishing you were anyone anywhere else.
A friend said to me while I was “in” it, “you don’t have to write a book about it.”
“Why shouldn’t I?” I thought. I had been lead by some invisible force to that moment, a knowing that I had to write this story and there was no turning back.
Fearing the judgment and the hatred I thought would inevitably come, I expected everyone I knew or didn’t know to silence me. No one would understand. And where would I hide when it was all over? I thought about moving somewhere else or changing my name, but I knew the past would always catch up.
Speaking my truth was like being dissected by an alien cutting deep within looking for answers hoping to discover my reason for being. It was a long, difficult, painful process that involved a great deal of trial and error, self-doubt, nervous snacking, and bouts of depression and euphoria. Healing takes time and patience and is an ongoing process as we peel off the past layer by layer.
I told my teacher—healer David Elliott—when I began my writing journey, that I would never show Rabbi Silver the book. He would never understand. He will hate me and wonder how I could write such things, how I could be so disrespectful and unworthy. How could a child of a Holocaust survivor even dare?
“He’s the first person you should show it to,” David commented.
So raw and vulnerable, I was an open wound and thought, “I will never show him.”
One day, a few years later, my husband, son and I had an appointment with the Rabbi to prepare for my son’s Bar Mitzvah, the day he becomes an adult in the Jewish tradition. That morning, to my own surprise, I decided, if the topic came up, I would tell the Rabbi about my book and ask him to review it. He is a brilliant scholar, gentle and admirable. I would be fortunate if he said yes. What did I have to lose at this point in the game? All the writing, rewriting and crying I had done over the past few years had healed me to the point I was ready to handle the consequences. “Not much could hurt me now,” I thought.
In the Rabbi’s office sitting at his round cherry wood table, the sun coming in through the long rectangular window, we discussed politics, Israel and the economy. Just as the subject was about to turn into the real reason we came, the Bar Mitzvah, my husband said, “Hey, by the way, did you know Randi wrote a book?”
“No, I didn’t. Tell me about it,” the Rabbi responded, looking directly at me.
The moment I thought would never happen was happening. The window was open and the stage set. I forgot to breathe, almost gasping. Through my next inhale I released a sentence...
“It’s called Beverly Hills Concentration Camp; a healing journey and memoir.”
The Rabbi’s eyes opened wide. “That’s quite a title,” he commented.
In one long exhale I said “I was wondering, Rabbi, if you would read it and review it for me.” As I took my next breath, it was as though spirit had left my body and was running toward the nearby hills leaving only my hollow shell to take in the rejection.
“I would be honored to read it,” he answered. He seemed delighted I had asked him. Thrilled, I couldn’t believe my ears.
After he had read my manuscript, he had a different understanding of who I really am. He was full of emotion, with compassion for my mother, brothers and myself, and a newfound respect for what I had done—written my truth, saved myself and came out the other side with a newfound desire to help others. “It’s really something. It reads like a film,” he said. “I am so proud of you. It took a lot of courage.”
Unable to absorb and truly believe that he meant his response to what I had written, it took a while before I did. Soon many others followed suit with the same opinion. But even those that had loved the book asked, “Have your children read this yet?” Obviously they were worried that some of the more savory stories might be inappropriate. They couldn’t see themselves being so forthcoming.
“No, they haven’t read it, but I’ve read some of the stories to them. They will read the book if they want to someday. We are pretty open with our kids, and in turn, I think they know they can tell us anything.
Then of course there are those that would judge a book by its cover. In fact, there is a lot one could judge about my cover. Not hard to do when the title is "Beverly Hills Concentration Camp", with the image of a naked woman jumping through a tree with a Jewish Star behind her.
We need to look beyond what we think we know to learn more, to save the judgments until after we understand the message, the background and the point of it all. Sometimes the message is greater than we even understand while we are writing the story. As in the case of my book, the larger message only became clear to me after I had written it; that you can heal yourself and your lineage, thereby changing the course of the rest of your life. It also helps to be part of a writing group where you can be held accountable and your stories witnessed. And having a talented editor who knows exactly where to ask the questions, such as 'what did you feel just then during that horrible moment?', or, 'what happened after the bedroom door closed?' is invaluable.
When my friend had told me “you don’t have to write a book about it,” I knew she wasn’t talking about me but about herself, reflecting her own self worth or lack of it that had nothing to do with me. A big lesson during this process was that people’s reactions—wonderful or critical—to what I had written, is really about them. I did my job. I told my story, and like it or not, it's mine. I can now take the compliments as well as deflect the heat. I’m satisfied with what I have done so far and look forward to writing more.
With the right tools, journaling and breath work meditation, this process of healing became easier, lighter and even joyous. Once you start the process and keep releasing what you no longer need, you look better, feel better and ARE better, taking to heart the things in life that are most important; nature, spirituality, family and friends. The best part of my life now is the freedom to really show up as who I really am, the real and total awareness that no ones opinion is as important as my own. That nothing is as valuable as how we feel, and that none of us really has anything about which to be embarrassed. Getting past pretending to be perfect is the key. It’s those juicy, bold and tough places in life that makes us exceptional, able to teach and tell the story. Without these alluring and intriguing details, art would be just plain boring.
I’m so excited about the launch of my website Randimaggid.com. The site is designed to hold energy and space for people to connect, improve, and uplift their lives while staying open, conscious and free. Everything presented here in writing or products promises to help one connect with their higher power through breathwork meditation, nature, spirituality, and creativity. As we heal ourselves by releasing stress and finding our gifts, we create a ripple for our family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances! I look forward to making a difference.