Archive for July, 2010

Toward the Future

No question, contemplation is what I do best.

Going on a picnic, I notice the land: Were the grass or trees sprayed with pesticides? Is there trash scattered? Are the trees indigenous to the land where they are planted? What kind of trash are we creating while outside? Are we walking gently enough to honor the earth?

Try going shopping with me:  Are the isles wheelchair accessible? Have the clothing or objects been made using slave-labor? How are the workers being treated?  Are people smoking outside the doorway?

Now forget eating out at a restaurant: How much trash is being created? Is the food prepared with local and/or organic food?  Can I inconspicuously say prayers before and after I eat? And if I don’t remember, I berate myself just fine.  Oh and let’s not forget that I prefer vegetarian, I am celiac, and I have to watch my sodium intake.  ☺

Some might say I am contemplative; some might say I take myself way too seriously.  Is there an alternative? I don’t think so!!!  I believe in conscious living at every turn.  It doesn’t mean that I eat only organic vegetables when I am out, it does mean that I consider each and every choice I make.  I NEVER stop thinking.

How are people treating each other? Is there recycling located near by? Are we depending too much on recycling as opposed to creating less trash?  How far do I have to travel to get some place? Are we using too much natural resources by doing whatever it is we are doing? The list of things I consider is endless.  I am also incredibly hard on myself as I consider that which I have yet to do.  I carry a water bottle, but I also buy packaged drinks.  I love chocolate and sometimes I buy chocolate that uses slave-labor instead of fair-trade.  I am far from perfect, but I am conscious; I try to improve in my choices regularly.  I also realize that I can’t take on every cause just yet.

As we face Tisha B’Av today, I am aware of the enormous loss that occurred not only in Jerusalem, but for the Jewish people as a whole.  It also stands as a holy day when we remember the destruction of the First and Second Temple, the decimation of so many Jewish lives, and the dispersion of our people.  As we reflect upon this time of bitter sadness and loss, many of us will also choose to work towards healing all that has occurred and doing our part to creating a better world.

Choose to live consciously as a Jew, as a human being – we can learn from each and every destructive time in history.  Yes we mourn the stories we hear, but if we are to survive, it is our job to find tools for living into the future.  We don’t always have the answers, but if we are thoughtful in our actions, we might move forward and fill the world with a little piece of light.

The Oil Spill in the Gulf Coast is agonizing to our environment, the people that live close by, anyone who’s livelihood depends on the that area.  How can we handle such a dark period of time? How can we move forward?  It isn’t easy, in fact it is a challenge, but we can move forward.  We can educate ourselves about where we purchase our gas; I have a long list of places I do not buy gas from.  We can donate money to environmental groups that will ultimately help the area.  And we can chant and send healing energy to the land, the animals, and the oceans.  The list of what we can do is endless, but we have to actively be working towards repairing each and every part of the world that touches us.

My hope is that each of us find some cause that moves us and drives us towards creating the light.

Nearly every day I pray, sometimes more prayers and sometimes less, but I always reflect on the words in the second paragraph of the Aleynu, l’taken olam b’malchut shadai, which I interpret to mean that it is our job “to repair the world in (for) Gd’s kingdom.”  What does that mean during our time of reflecting on the destruction of much of the Jewish world.  Answering the question isn’t so simple, but essentially it is my job, all of our jobs, to do all that I can to repair not only the Jewish world, but the world at large.  I am constantly considering what it means to be a “light unto the nations”.

When you actively do your part to improve the world, each action leads to a stronger connection to the life-force that exists.  Visualizing a healthy world is much more precious when you are doing your part to consciously make a difference.  There are so many ways to make a difference; if you haven’t already found something that moves you, just pick something for now and then look for something that is more meaningful as you move forward.   I think it is all of our obligations to bring light into the world.

Yearning for what was or what could be doesn’t make the world a better place; actively doing something to change the world, no matter how small, that makes the world a better place.    Mahatma Gandhi put it simply when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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Wilderness into Delight

Recently a friend called me as I was chanting a chant that theoretically was helping me to reach outside myself to find the beauty that surrounds me. Usually I don’t pick up the phone while I am chanting; it just isn’t what I do.  But my friend Suzi and I have not been able to connect lately and I really needed to hear her voice and be touched by her energy.

Upon answering the phone, I told Suzi that her timing was perfect!  I was chanting what Rabbi Shefa calls “The Miracle”. “He transforms her wilderness into Delight, her wasteland into a Divine Garden.” (Isaiah 51:3) Our journey is vast, but we are blessed to continue finding the beautiful light that so often surrounds us.

Suzi and I had both faced some devastating life experiences in a very parallel ways.  Our childhoods, our lives, and the struggle for our children to survive multiple brain surgeries.  Both of our children are doing great.  But sometime, you need a friend who really understands your darkness, so I picked up the phone.

While talking to Suzi, I began to consider the power of this chant.

Moving through life’s transitions can be a difficult on a good day.  Rebuilding your life after working through a devastating experience takes time.  When I move through life, I usually find the light somewhere streaming through the darkness, but sometimes I can’t find the light so easily.  My hope is that I will remember that I have been in tough places before and I ultimately have always found my way out.

Treading through the pain isn’t easy, but I am blessed to have a few tools that guide me out of the wilderness.  It feels funny to think in terms of life challenges, pain, and darkness as being the Wilderness.  On the other hand, it makes perfect sense.  When I hike, I often find a daunting moment as I climb up a mountain or take a particularly challenging trail, but then when I reach a moment of undeniable beauty, I can’t help but pause for a long moment and just breath in the delight, the beauty, the awesomeness of the universe.

Through chanting, drawing, writing, walking, and praying, I often find my center.  I find beauty even as I am walking through the tough stuff.  Reaching out to friends and loved ones helps, as does letting those loved ones reach out to me.  Breathing in the light and the energy that comes from the universe and than releasing it into the greater world also brings me through the obstacle course called life.

Finding the Delight takes work, but with work I have been able to find beauty in the Wilderness.  How do you move through the Wilderness?

With blessings and light,

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(This is in part excerpted from a letter I wrote to my chanting friends.)

Sometimes I find a saying that resonates with my soul and sometimes I find a chant that lifts me higher. Over the last days, I figured out that a chant I love is so completely parallel to quote I love!! Wow. . . .Basheret (it is meant to be)

The quote/saying is: “The sun shines not on us but in us, the rivers flow not past us but through us” – John Muir

The chant that I utilize is from my teacher Rabbi Shefa Gold.  Her interpretation/translation is as follows, “And from the River of Your bliss you will give them drink. For with you is the Source of Life, In Your Light we see light. (Psalm 36:9-10)  http://www.rabbishefagold.com/RiverOfBliss.html

Another translation that I love comes from The Metsudah Tehillim:
from the stream of Your delights
You will give them to drink.
For with you is the source of life,
in Your light shall we see light.

The power of these words has impacted me on a truly soul level. With each breath I feel like I am growing more connected with the world around me in a way that is fueling my soul.  Lately, there has been some very challenging things going on in my life, but knowing that I am connected to a higher life-force grounds me so that darkness doesn’t impede too much within my journey.

The beauty is my relationship with the world around me.  I am intricately connected to not only the divine, but all that exists because the universe exists.  I am not only part of the universe; I am one with the universe.  The responsibility is profound and I have to do all that I can to nurture the relationship I have with all that exists, with the One.

Through my chanting practice, I cultivate an even stronger connection to the universe by actively embracing that connection in the chanting work I do.  Chanting can be about visualizing positive energy going where it is needed.  I do realize that it is my job to also engage in physical actions towards healing.  Tikun Olam (repairing the world) can happen in many ways from chanting, to prayer, to physically rebuilding that what needs rebuilding, and to educating people so that they know what is going on and can then actively engage in their own Tikun Olam.

I have been chanting the above verses from the psalms above with some cholim (ill people) in mind for less than a couple of weeks.  As I do it, I am finding my own personal place in the chant practice; Reb Shefa’s vision provides me the medicine I need at this time.  You can read her words at the link above.  As I chant, I feel like I am filling with Gd’s light and energy, I am finding center and believing that not only can I receive the light and energy, but I can share it out within the larger world. I love what the chant does for me and I also love being able to share and do my part in healing those beings that need healing.

So in my practice, I visualize each of the people that I am chanting for and I recite their name at the end of the last sentence in Hebrew and again in English.  I feel like I am breathing the healing energy towards each specific person in need of healing.  Before doing this chant as a healing mantra for others, I center myself with it and after I have completed the ritual of breathing out the cholim names with each breathe, I make certain that I am also receiving the life-force from Gd and her universe.  I find myself chanting this chant daily and often times for not only those in need of healing, but also for the Gulf, the Flotilla, etc.  The words are so powerful and the way that I am finding my practice is making me feel a little more whole!

It is funny how two very separate verses have come into my life as they have.  Both the saying and the chant have become part of my medicine for living healthy!!

One more chant that has impacted me greatly in the past weeks and has become part of my daily practice has been Eyal and Danya Rivlin’s, Oil Spill Response Song, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E86gmNYsyiQ&feature=channel.  I find that I am using this chant to remind myself that I have healing energy not only for the Gulf, but for all living creatures.

I am feeling really blessed to have these chanting practices as a guide towards living a more whole life.  And I love knowing that many different people and cultures think about similar ideas.
John Muir was so wise when he said, “The sun shines not on us but in us, the rivers flow not past us but through us.”  Each saying has it’s own gifts, but the bottom-line is that each of us has the power to use the universe’s gifts for good.

With blessings and light,

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