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(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)
easel-in-corner
Learning has always caused me a tremendous amount of excitement. Not only do I love to work as a Director of Congregational Learning, I also love to stretch and grow myself in different ways. There is NEVER a time I stop being the seeker that I am.

With this in mind, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (a series of podcasts) when I heard:

At the end of the day, the only thing that’s perfect is a blank sheet of paper
– untouched with nothing on it. And if you’re questing for perfection,
then you will leave that blank paper blank.”
Neil Gaiman (Podcast: Magic Lesson Episode 207) 

As a passionate writer, an amateur artist, a mother, a storyteller, a friend, an educator, and more – I tend to struggle with a strong desire to reach for perfection.  And yet a person who plays so many roles, I know for a fact that I can do little or none of these roles perfectly.

My guess is that if you took time, to read every word that I have written in this blog post, you would find a spelling mistake, a grammar challenge, and a few unclear phrase or two. And if it is a natural skill or your personality, you could probably find something wrong with most everything I do.  Oh well. . .

My holy work is to create, to play, to explore, and to connect with the world around me. And to make sure I do this while finding peace in the mess that I sometimes leave in my wake.  I can’t always say the right thing or use the ‘right’ color/word/whatever. Life is full of imperfections. And many of those realities lead to beauty.  And while I may seek perfection and get frustrated by my many imperfections, the interactions with the world around me are too delicious to stop.

Always learning. . . .

The blank paper or intense silence doesn’t necessarily lead to the sparks that ignite when I take chances to interact with all the moving parts of my environment.  And yet the blank piece of paper or the silence may be exactly what I sometimes need to become grounded and ready grow or learn. Isn’t it all perspective?

As and educator, a mom, and a friend, I believe that most of us thrive using the myriad of tools to tap into learning. When free choice is coupled with the capacity to trust our spirits, it can be rather easy to soar.  This sort of awareness enables us to interact with the many environments that surround us in the  most authentic way possible.

For me and so many others, the innate curiosity  courses through our veins; it has a way of inspiring each of us to explore the world by using each and every one of our senses. That is, if we allow for our spirits to take that leap.

Always learning. . . .

Learning doesn’t have to take place at a desk in order to be called learning. Gaining knowledge takes place when I take the time talk to people, listen to the birds chirping, read an amazing book, or sometimes when I paint on the blank canvas.

All learners and all facilitators of learning know that it takes a certain amount of chutzpah, to stretch ourselves. You have to be willing get a little messy sometimes, take chances, trust your instincts, and yes, sometimes you need to make mistakes.

Hmmmm. . . .I see a metaphor forming here.

None of us succeed without doing “something” with a blank sheet of paper or a blank canvas. Success comes when we push ourselves out of comfort zone, create using all the tools at our disposal, and choose to consciously live life in the ways that feel right for you.

With the High Holy Days being right around the corner, may  we celebrate the opportunities we have had this year and seek new opportunities in the coming year. While perfection would be awesome, sometimes messing up leads to greatness.

Perhaps it is time to paint on that blank canvas at the top of this blog? What do you think?

May we find peace in the journeys we have taken this year and find new ways to stretch this coming year.

Onward with love & light!
Chava

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun - Easel

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun – Tucson, Arizona

There is one way that you will know if I am in a spiritually grounded place. Just one. . . . . If creative projects fill my time or even my mind. I am probably exactly where I need to be.

As long as I am taking time to write, drum, paint, doodle, chant, or move, you can assume life is good. AND when I take time to go to museums, check-out cool neighborhoods, or people watch, you can also make an assumption that I am doing well.

My spirit needs to share space with sizzling energy and emerging innovations.

Creative souls jazz my world. If someone is passionate about some form of creativity, I usually fall in love with them, energetically that is.

Over the years, I have often found myself tearing when I witness beauty or creativity. I can’t seem to stop the release that comes when I see or hear something that deeply touches me.

When I lived in Tucson, I used to go to the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun which was literally around the corner from my house. Every time I saw the easel above, I would want to curl up into a ball and weep. I believe that some of that comes from my sadness that I want to be more of an artist than I am, but it is also because I adore that worn look and obviously beloved easel.

In the last several years, I have begun to go to museums alone so that I can take the time to fully appreaciate the energy  (and yes cry without navigating the reaction of others). Most recently, I have felt the incredible wave of emotion nearly everytime I see one of Mark Rothko paintings or when I go to the Rothko chapel close to where I live in Houston. I am not such an art connoisseur that I understand exactly why I have this reaction, but nonetheless it is what happens. Another time, many years ago, I couldn’t contain myself when I was at a Salvador Dali exhibit in Philadelphia.  The only  way to explain what seems to be happening is that my heart simply breaks open.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Quote by Henry David Thoreau

May we all me inspired by the beauty not only surrounds us, also what comes from within.

Onward with love & light,
Chava

(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)

Chava's Shadow 17January2016

Over the last many years, I have found myself struggling with communicating my thoughts and my feelings within close relationships. While intellectually, I know that I am articulate, the inner child in me has had to cope with feelings of inadequacy and feeling like I am sometimes invisible.

In truth, I understand why this is. This has been a reaction to losing a couple of my closest friends who didn’t want to hear my voice any longer. I may never know the full story, but it probably doesn’t matter. It is what it is. At the time, those experiences triggered memories of my childhood. During those early years, I learned that that I was insignificant; no one heard my cries or helped me in any tangible way. So I learned to hide behind the shadows. Sometimes that is still my safe space; sometimes I still go there.

What’s beautiful is that there is a part of me that understands how articulate I am. And there is another part of me that knows that my thoughts mean something to my family, my friends, and my community. My holy work is to fight the demons that try to silence me.  You know the voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough to share your thoughts; or that voice that reminds you that you are showing too much passion. My job right now is to stop that voice from affecting how I communicate.

 

Moving to Houston just over 16 months ago has contributed so much to my healing from loss of loved ones. It has also helped me to see that I have not been silenced by those closest to me unless you count me.

People want to hear my thoughts, my stories, my ideas, and most don’t mind hearing me fumble with words. I don’t always have to be articulate.

Over the last year I have listened to Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert. I love these podcasts that have inspired me to honor my creative soul and was especially touched by Episode 205 that I heard earlier this week. In it, Liz shared that our words are “better out than in.” While my passion sometimes feels unweildy, it is always intensely real and from my heart. As long as I remember that sharing my voice is like speaking my truth, I can ride the waves of life with a little more ease.

Plus it came at a time when I am planning to share more of my stories and ask others to share their stories of childhood and life traumas. I am starting a project in which I collect stories of positive souls that have had to overcome harsh traumas. I want to hear how people navigate the darkness and ultimately find light.

Hearing the podcast felt like a huge punch into my gut because it helped me to realize that I have been minimizing my voice instead of sharing it with the passion that is part of me. The good news is that this didn’t happen all the time, but it happened too much. So as I get ready to address some hard stuff in my writing and storytelling, and even within my personal relationships,  it is ok for me to also say that “it’s really scary for me to let this out, but I’d so much rather it come out all wrong than stay in all wrong.” My voice matters.

Being emotionally honest is how I navigate the world. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Onward with light & love,
Chava

 

 

(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)

Over the last year and a half, I have openly been seeing myself more clearly than I had in the past. With each step in the journey or thought racing through my head I ask myself lots of questions:

  1. Does what I am doing fuel my soul?
  2. Am I feeling grounded?
  3. How can I make what I am doing more meaningful?
  4. Can I find contentment and maybe even happiness as I embrace whatever I am doing?
  5. Have I surrounded myself with those that inspire me?
  6. Am I being authentic?

Asking these questions and so many others enables me to focus on the my many moving parts of this growing and strengthening process. As each answer unfolds, clarity emerges. It helps to know where I have been and where I am so that I can best chart where I am going. While I have mountains to climb, I love that I can always grow and evolve.

Regardless of the complexities that surround me, I am enveloped in a villiage of loved ones-near and far. While I may feel lonely at times, I am never alone.

This holy work is transforming me to to better self-care and to build stronger connections with others. With so much to do, I have found myself needing to focus on moving more, consciously doing my part for the larger world, addressing my weight challenges, nurturing my spirit and so much more. . .

Surprisingly, I have realized how much of an introvert I am. I feel intense gratitude when I can allow for quiet days with few or no dialogues with others. I often crave solitude; I fantasize of having days, weeks, and even months to myself. And then I quietly laugh to myself when I wonder how I would really feel if I had that sort of time alone.  I may be an introvert, but I love my village too. And watching people on the streets and coffee shops is one of my favorite things to do!

At the same time, I believe that one day I will find the create a beautiful partnership with a man who touches my soul and allows me to touch his. Someone who cares for the world and takes a serious interest in making the world a better place without forgetting to care for himself. The right person will treasure who I am and be comfortable with how I walk in the world. And regardless of who we are when we begin our relationship, may we both stretch and grow into better human beings together and as individuals. May our beauty and light flow out into the world.

I am a seeker in every way. Living consciously as a Jew has allowed me to see the world  as I do. The path has lead me to  teachers that have inspired me to push myself, opened my heart to see how I can better impact the world, and taught me how to honor the woman I am. Writing, chanting, drumming, drawing, learning, and dancing have become part of my nearly daily life. Wow – I am so lucky to have grown as I have.

 

Learning to accept the person I am has been hard at times, heart-warming at other times and always profound.

May blessings abound – for all of us as we continue to travel the world as we do.

Onward with light & love,
Chava

 

Polish-Slovakian border - Stephanie Randall

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Randall; Location Pieniny National Park in Slovakia

 

Elul* is a time for deep reflection.

For one entire month, I will share my sometimes arduous but ultimately transformative journey towards Growing my Spirit AND Strengthening My Soul.

Writing is how I process all that is happening within me and around me. While I can express myself beautiful in conversation, if you really want to know what weighs heavy on my mind and spirit, read my writings. As my soul friend, Renee Airya, recently wrote, “I’m liberated by this sharing- not burdened by it.”

With every ounce of my being, I believe that each and every word will lead me to a new and healthier Jewish New Year. In these writings, I will openly share all the strength and brokenness that is part of me.

My decision to unveil both darker and lighter sides of my essence is meant as a tool. By embracing who I really am, I will be able to become more grounded which will enable me to soar higher in the coming year. With each word or step, my hope is to become a more authentic and graceful me.

Onward with love and light,
Chava

*Elul takes place the month before Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year. During this month, we are given the opportunity to reflect on our lives and work towards our future hopes, dreams, and realities.

Dichotomies Abound

Truth

Life is full of dichotomies.

How is that the same person we love with such intensity is also the person that can push us over the edge emotionally and/or spiritually?  While the question is very real, the answer is not.

Opening my eyes this morning, I realized how profoundly affected  I am by  life’s dichotomies.

  • The National Parks celebrated their 100th anniversary this summer. Growing up not far from the Appalachian Trail, or the AT as I refer to it, helped define how I see beauty. While some people dream of luxurious vacations to cosmopolitan cities, I can’t wait to sit quietly in the Redwood Forests next summer.
  • Angels have surrounded me during so many harsh times of my life. When my son was critically sick, old and new friends helped support us in a variety of very tangible ways. When unemployment/underemployment left me penniless, both strangers and friends alike made certain my sons and I would thrive. And yet, poverty surrounds me on every street corner and many children go without the necessary food to survive.
  • The color of someone’s skin is unimportmant to me, but this week, we ordered a Black Lives Matter sign for our front yard.  Living in a world that often subjugates many in the human-race deeply troubles me.
  • Theoretically, we live in a time were the government has checks and balances which allow for all people to be treated equal, yet we have a presidential nominee that incites a population to violence and is not being held accountable for it.
  • Climate change is a huge challenge seen in increasing numbers of intense rainfall events and the rising of  global temperatures. Yet there are many political leaders that are denying the very real reality.
  • My love for Israel runs deep, but I question the integrity of a country that has a poor track record for how she treats Palestinians and others. AND yet, when a natural disaster occurs, Israel is one of the first countries to set up a field hospital and to help a traumatized people.
  • Children are absolutely precious and treasured in the world that I live, yet there are so many children that are violated, abused, and essentially treated horrifically.
  • In Houston a few months ago, a man was shot up while trying to stop a man on a killing spree. In the end, the innocent bystander ended up in critical condition and a suspect.

Reality is full of gifts and challenges. The world’s complexities wreak havoc on those of us that are unable to shut off the troubling stories that impact our world at any given moment.

Moving forward in the world is not easy, this means we need to do so with open eyes and a willingness to do our part to improve the world we live in.

May we all find our voices as we decide how we will impact the world for good.

Onward with love & light,
Chava

Life is full of cycles. As it says in both Ecclesiastes and Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season):

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

Written by Pete Seeger • Copyright © T.R.O. Inc.
 ~ ~ ~
Today is my father’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of his death; Morry Bloomberg died 15 years ago today. I remember that time as if it is an open wound that feels like it will never heal. And yet, the good news is that it did heal. Moving forward became my reality.
 
While the loss of my father sometimes looms larger than life, the devastation is mostly held at bay. I miss him deeply, but his presence is always within arm’s reach.
 
I loved my father and all the moving parts that made him both beautiful and challenging. My father was not always good at taking care of me, but his love was profound and pure. I never ever doubted his love, only his ability to keep me safe. (BUT, that is not the story I want to share now.)
 
In the last few days, I have found myself navigating some beautiful light and profound darkness. This is what happens to me around the time of my father’s yahrzeit. This is the time when I recall the multiple dichotomies of not only my father, but of other people and other times in my life. Somehow this is one of the times of year that inner reflection is inevitable.
 
Very few things in life are simple. We love intensely and then we lose our hearts with deep veracity. We create beautiful masterpieces and then destroy them with a fierceness that only an artist can understand. We do our best to change the world for good and then one day our spirit needs a break; it can no longer make a difference so we give up.
 
And then we find ourselves loving again, creating again, and doing our part to change the world again. The cycle begins – again.
 
Navigating the world as I do means that I have to honor the cycles that nurture both profound light and profound dark within me. I have to do what my father would have called, “listening to the silence”. So. . .that is exactly what I do this time of year and many others too. I “listen to the silence”: I take some very deep breaths and I allow myself to reflect inward.
Ocean Sept 2014

Photo courtesy of my someone who really knows how to listen to the silence, Shay Seaborne.

My desire to listen to the silence always coincides with the anniversary of my father’s passing.
 
There is no surprise that my father used to have a loving way that  he would hold my ears and say, ‘listen to the silence’. Love and calmness would permeate my entire being in those sweet moments.
 
So, today, on my father’s yahrzeit, I am consciously taking the time to ‘listen to the silence’, to remember my father, and to honor my spirit that is craving a little more quiet in my world.
 
May my father’s memory always remind me to go inward and to listen to the still quiet voice that is always illuminating my way.
 
May I always honor the cycles that move my spirit.
 
Onward with love,
Chava