Archive for July, 2012

Part of writing this blog series is for me to remind myself that I need to actively seek happiness.  This exploration will continue through my lifetime;  the goal is to continually create the spiritual space to thrive as I actively engage in life with a smile on my face.  It’s what I do.

Before I go into what I will call Commandment #5 or Seek Peaceful Connections, I want to explore how each of us see beauty.

Below are two photos, the first one taken by my friend Shai Gluskin under the beautiful clouds of Vermont’s wilderness.  The second photo was taken in one of the holiest places I have ever traveled, Jemez Springs, New Mexico.  The terrain of both locations is vastly different and yet both are spiritually holy places.  The question is which physical environment do you find peaceful? Which location is beautiful to you?

Blueberry Hill near Ripton, Vermont
Photo is a contribution from Shai Gluskin

Jemez Spring, New Mexico
Photo taken in January 2009 by Chava

Each of us define relationships to people, to land, to the world differently.  What do you see as healthy and what I see as healthy may be different.  In the fifth commandment, I am exploring what it means to have peaceful connections.  Looking at the two photos above, I am aware that my needs change based on what is going on in my life at any given time.   I am flexible in my needs, but my son Aryeh has yet to find beauty in the ‘fucking desert’ as he jokingly refers to the southwest.  I, however, love being here.

Seek Peaceful Connections

In our personal relationships, we all have people we adore, people we tolerate or just like, and people that challenge us.  I contend that in order to be happy, you really need to surround yourself with those folks that jazz your soul in different ways.

Knowing yourself will help in this journey.  Personally, I love spiritual environments; drumming and chanting, prayer and learning make me happy.  When I take time to write, my soul feels complete joy and thoroughly alive. I am passionate about the environment and Israeli politics.  And watch out once I start talking about voluntary simplicity.  For me, I need to spend time with people that love many of the things I do.

Over the years, I have learned to end connections that don’t fuel me in any way.  While it is sad and hard to do that, it is necessary for my emotional health.  I accept the fact that I do not have enough time in my week to experience what I need and want for myself.  Between my children and work, there is so much to do.  So when I have time, I want to thoroughly enjoy those that surround me or I want to know that what I am doing makes a difference.  Wasting time is not an option.

What is peaceful to you? What do you find comforting? Below is a short list of environments I find to be peaceful:

  • nature
  • quiet coffee houses
  • drum circles
  • walks in the rain
  • chant circles

And I love being with people that prefer the same environments.  I wouldn’t enjoy nightclubs or amusement parks.  I don’t like large gatherings and I wouldn’t like to be around a group of hunters.  So, it is important to have a grasp of what environments are soothing to you and then find others that share what you like.

The biggest challenge in creating peaceful connections is finding the time.  There are so many people that I instantly adore; sometimes I have the time it takes to nurture the connections and sometimes I don’t.  The key is being honest with myself about the time I have to connect.

Peace is the calm feeling that nourishes and inspires me to be the best me I can be.

“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”

~Peace Pilgrim

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In a perfect world, celebrating your child’s birthday should be a given.  When our children come into our lives, we expect that good health will be a given and each day will be full of living and thriving.  Sometimes we aren’t blessed with such a beautiful scenario.  Sometimes life is a struggle.

Today is a day full of gratitude for everyone in our family.  Aryeh came into this world with a roar; he was a fighter from the start and that has stayed with him as he faced and continues to face each chapter in his life.

Aryeh and Pita

Life is not a given.  Good health is not a given.  Our family was fortunate.

Aryeh’s strength and character has served him well.  I am thrilled that he was a fighter during his health challenges at birth when he was the first child to survive a horrible blood disorder and then again during his early teenage years when he struggled with complications of a 6.5 cm arachnoid cyst in his brain.  Nearly three years in bed did not destroy his spirit.  It did, however, cause him tremendous pain.  Even with that pain, Aryeh always persevered.
Aryeh fought for his life!

Next week, my precious child will do what many parents take for granted.  Aryeh will be traveling to Israel on a birthright trip.  He will be traveling the country with other adults from all over the United States and from the Jewish Renewal movement.  Before the last year or so, it could have never happened.  Aryeh’s struggle with health meant he couldn’t do what is normal for other children.  Summer camp, going abroad, even college was not a possibility until a year or so ago.  Today the only limits that exist for Aryeh are the limits he places on himself.

Aryeh’s name means lion in Hebrew; we didn’t plan to have his name represent his essence, but it does.  With tears of joy and intense emotions flowing through my soul today, I am ecstatic that Aryeh has always been blessed with a spirit for life.  May he continue to roar with each and every leap he takes.

Aryeh is 19 years old!   Yay!!!

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Are you taking care of your soul?  If not, how can you expect to be happy?


Look at yourself – Are you doing things that can be considered fuel for your soul?  I know that I am not doing as well as I need to, but I am trying.  I am actively engaged in the journey of Seeking My Own Path to Simchah (Happiness).

Commandment 4: Living more consciously

Taking a moment to observe the world around you can open your eyes to exquisite beauty.

In a sense, this entire journey is about living more consciously.  Specifically though, I am aware that I have to embrace my intensity and become more accepting of my nature. I love that I am aware of my surroundings.  I love noticing people, caring about nearly every aspect of the world I travel and the world that surrounds me.  Many people would say that I over- think things.  While that is OK, I do find myself challenged when people note this reality in a teasing way.  And yes, I would benefit from allowing myself to let the comments ride a little.   The bottom-line is that I actively consider life, engage in life, and that leads me to loving  the life I live.

Living more consciously is also about not only noticing your surroundings, but also taking stock of your needs.  What is it that you really want/need at any moment.  At this moment, I know that I need more sleep/rest than I have recently had; I need to drink more water; and I need more alone time so that I can take time to be more present for myself.  If I were living more consciously, I would be listening to my needs better.  Instead I am just noting them.  As I type these words I realize that in a moment I will save what I am working on and then take a long drink of water.  After that I will turn off the computer and go pack to sleep for an hour.  If I don’t make sure my basics needs are met, how will I be the best me that I can be?

In order to find happiness I need to take care of my soul.  While this blog series will take approximately three weeks to write, it will take me months to implement.  If I am going to succeed in this journey in a healthy way, I need to take change a little slowly.  Healthy and sustainable change can’t happen overnight.


Note: While seeking my own path to simchah (happiness), I am touched by the many responses.  In grappling with my journey, I love hearing that I am actively making other people think.  Thanks for letting me know.

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The scariest moment is always just before you start. ~Stephen King

Beginning MAKES the Conditions Perfect!

Creating sacred or spiritual time to care for your soul takes effort.  Each and every day is a gift, yet how often do I take the time to treasure the beauty of that gift.  I yearn for the time yet I rarely take the time I need.  How can I take the time I need without neglecting my children, my work, my many to do lists, etc?

When I refrain from doing things for my soul, I find myself unbalanced in nearly every way.  I become overly focused and frustrated by small things.  I smile less.  I am a little more klutzy than usual because I am not centered.  I also get angry and frustrated more easily than when I am taking care of my soul.

With this in mind, I have decided that I need to consciously do what I am calling Commandment 3.

Take Spiritual Time Each Day means that nourish my soul.  For me there are so many levels and it is time that I create the space to make this happen.  My teacher Rabbi Shefa Gold used to speak about taking time to develop a practice.  When I am truly taking time for myself that means that I do the at least two or three different practices a day.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • chanting
  • writing
  • davening/praying
  • drumming
  • yoga (if I can find the right teacher for me-hint?)
  • early morning walks
  • hiking
  • meditating
  • journaling (drawing and writing together)

The list goes on and on, but these are practices that keep me centered and nourish me at the deepest level.  When I take care of my soul, I am healthier in every way.

The question is how much time do I need to take each day.  In truth, I need significant time, but I have to get over the hump that soul time is neglecting other responsibilities.  I am not sure how to do that, but I will start with taking an hour of soul time each day.  My guess is that that will be broken up in three to four increments throughout the day.   While this commitment feels overwhelming, it also feels necessary for my survival.

May my soul soar as I take the sacred/spiritual time I need to care for it.

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The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. ~Gustave Flaubert

Welcome back to my journey towards Seeking My Own Path to Simchah (Happiness):  My Own Personal Happiness Project.

Writing allows me the space to cultivate ideas. Through writing, I hope to challenge others as well as myself to grapple with ideas and seek the answers to questions that we sometimes don’t even know we have. For the next two to three weeks, I will be sharing 11 or more commandments or guidelines that I am developing for myself in my journey to simchah.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas as I openly work towards growing into an even happier human being.

Simchah (happiness) is a beautiful emotion.  Personally I perceive it as being an ecstatic emotion that is somewhat beyond what I have been known to feel. There have been moments of joy, but I am seeking more.  Here is where I tell those that know me personally to stop feeling melancholy for me.  OK? I am a really content person overall: I love life and love living in it.  At the same time, I am on a journey to actively seek what I think might be a higher level of contentment; I am seeking inner simchah, a more enduring sensation than contentment, maybe even more contagious too.

Over six weeks ago, I had planned to do a 13 part series called, “Seeking My Own Path to Simchah (Happiness): My Own Personal Happiness Project”.  The first two parts of the series are:

Now I have decided that although I am extraordinarily busy, I am absolutely ready to continue this journey that was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

Moving forward – Commandment 2: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Wow, this theme seems to come up in my life again and again.  Even last night I mentioned this commandment in my last blog.  Little did I know it was a recurring theme in my life.

About 8 plus years ago I changed my first and last name.  My first name is now Chava and it essentially means life.  I love life; I am alive.  I feel that gift each and every day.  My last name is now Gal-Or, meaning wave of light.  I gave myself that name for two simple reasons:

  1. I wanted to acknowledge the light that exists in others and in most situations.  (That is how I made it through tremendous darkness within my childhood and in the years my son was ill.)
  2. I always want to remember the light within me.

For me, living in this world means that I need to consciously be engaged in how I connect with the world.  While I feel compelled to navigate the world by considering my footprint in every way; I also find myself considering how I can share what I know.  My goal is never to make someone feel bad, but it is important that folks make conscious decisions when they can.  Perhaps they will consider new realities or share what they know if I am making an incorrect assumption based on incorrect information.  In the end, we all benefit.

‘Be the change you want to see in the world” means that I need to live consciously and treat others with kindness and love even when challenges exist.  Sometimes it means that I need to walk away when the space that I am standing is no longer sacred and when I stop being able to be the person I think I should be.  Admitting it is time to move forward is an extension of living with integrity and therefore taking one more step so that I can “be the change. . . .”

Here is just a small list of what our family does to be the change:

  • buy fair-trade chocolate.  The chocolate industry utilizes child slave labor at every turn.
  • use environmentally friendly products and make our own cleansers.
  • use an electric lawn mower instead of gas.  We would love to find a manual lawn mower next.
  • try to send thoughtful cards to people.
  • purchase and consume organics.
  • limit our trash as we can. (moving was not good for us in this department, working on improving again)
  • support businesses that have good business practices.
  • refrain from using businesses that do not share our values.
  • refrain from purchasing gas at Chevron, BP, Exxon, Shell, Mobile.  Trying to figure out who might be good.  Any ideas?
  • remember the workers.  We always try to tip for service rendered even when it isn’t the norm.
  • are always kind to strangers and people we meet wherever we go.
  • do not purchase anything made in China unless it is used or recycled.
  • actively pursue human rights in any way we can.  We actively do our part for Palestinians, folks in Darfur, workers in China, immigrant workers, etc.  Sadly, the list goes on and on.

We have much to learn, but with each new piece of information we try to incorporate the knowledge so that we can be conscious consumers and human beings.  Change in the world begins with each individual actively doing his or her part (large and small).  If each of us made a difference in some small way, our collective consciousness would grow.

My second commandment is that I need to be the change I want to see in the world.  I need to remember that with each step I take.  Complacency can never become a part of who I am.

With each smile, with each small step, I can be the change I want to see in the world.  Can you?

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The people I love most are seekers.  They are conscious individuals who consistently consider the world around them.  They are looking for the best ways to walk in the world as they honor both themselves and the world that they live.  Lately I have been wondering if people that are conscious about each and every step can find happiness knowing that complexity surrounds them at every turn.  Nothing is simple.

The beauty of conscious people is that most of them have integrity in how they live their lives.  When they smile or when they scream, they are being real.  When they write, you can trust their words come from reality, as they know it to be.  Passion runs deep and their souls are full of life.

As I write these words, I realize that I am talking about myself; I am a seeker.  With each breath I strive to be the best person that I can be.  Admitting that I am far from perfect or that I am not as good as I’d like to be bothers me.  The truth is that as a seeker, I have to acknowledge the many truths that exist within me and around me.  Life’s complications are part of the chaos of the world I live.

Tomorrow I will reopen my writing series on my own process of seeking happiness. This process I am using to consciously and openly grapple with my own journey to seek simchah also known as happiness or joy. My first entry was written just over 6 weeks ago when I thought I would be able to explore journey as I entered one of the busiest periods of my life.  Here it the link to the first entry written nearly 6 weeks ago. https://lightwavejourney.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/seeking-my-own-path-to-simchah-happiness-my-own-personal-happiness-project/

Seeking happiness or contentment takes guts for someone like me.  I walk the world conscious of nearly every breath I take.  Even when I am making what I consider to be poor choices, I can never stop considering each and every decision that I make.  Very few things happen without deep contemplation.  As I was driving cross-country recently, we nearly ran out of gas because I couldn’t find a gas station that was less than evil.  Our family generally chooses to refrain from purchasing gas at Exxon, Chevron, Mobile, BP, and now Shell.  I am probably missing a few on the list. My guess is that none of the companies are good, but this is what I remember.  As I was driving through Texas, I knew I had to stop or my family would be stuck on the highway. So I did what I thought I had to do, I stopped at an Exxon and cringed as I filled up and then paid.

With each step I make, I hope that my choices are for good. I pray that I have the ability to make good decisions.  I hope that when I choose to ‘dig my heels in’ that it is with the right intentions. I am seeker, but it is my prayer that my decisions are grounded and healthy not only for myself and those I love, but for the world around me too.  Contentment and simchah (joy) comes from transparency and thoughtfulness.

I want to “be the change you want to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi)

May each step that a seeker takes help build a stronger foundation towards true and complete simchah (happiness).  Stay tuned as I continue my own personal journey and blog series toward finding simchah over the coming two to three weeks.

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“Friendship is one soul dwelling in two bodies.” ~Aristotle

Loving my friends is part of my being, just as my blood flows; my breath sustains me; and my heart beats, etc.   It is what it is.   And sometimes friendships end.  Death and personal choices sometime sever a connection forever.  With each ending a heart shatters and sadness penetrates one’s being.  Losing someone we love literally takes our breath away.

We have all experienced loss yet with each loss, I am never certain how I will heal from my loss.  How can one survive the pain?  Loneliness quite literally shatters my being; darkness shadows my essence.

This year has been full of loss.  I have lost people that I love.  I have had to say good-bye and to move forward and find my sunny disposition while darkness shattered my essence.

In Hebrew, the word for neshama is often translated as soul and sometimes translated as breath.   With each loss of a soul friend, I literally lose my breath.

I see my closest friends as puzzle pieces that make me feel so much more whole as a human being when when we are connected.  Yet sometimes we lose those that we feel most completely connected to.  A knife can enter us and drain us of our derekh (path) for a period of time.  Again, it is what it is.  Somehow we find the power within ourselves to heal, to move forward.

While the pain feels insurmountable, I am blessed with one realization that will sustain me until the end of time.

Don’t cry because it is over.   Smile because it happened.

~Dr. Seuss

May we all find the blessings in our beloved friends even when they are no more a part of our lives.

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‘Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.’ ~Thich Nhat Hahn


Some days are filled with moments when you’d rather be somewhere else or curled up in a ball and hiding.  Those days are part of life and we each get to decide how to move through them.   From experience, I know that bad days will pass and good days happen more frequently than not.  Still I often think of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Voirst.  In the book, Alexander believes that moving to Australia will make everything better.

Nearly each and every time, I am in a bad mood I think of the book about Alexander and giggle at how ludicrous and great it would be if I could just run away to Australia.  Even though I have yet to visit Australia, but still the thought enters my brain even if only for a second.

While dark moments visit, one of the most beautiful gifts I can give myself within this journey is to remember that I love this universe whether in Tucson, Washington DC or Australia.  Difficult moments will pass.  Breathing deeply and walking gently can transform dark moods.   However, sometimes the moods will stay; sometimes moments are tough, but they do evenually pass.

As I was recovering from a fairly tough day, my friend Rabbi Shai Specht’s tweet reminded me,  “How things look on the outside of us depends on how things are on the inside of us.”  Once I read the tweet, I decided to lie down in bed and take a few minutes to blog while thinking of my long-term blog assignment that I am contemplating.  And with that I quickly found center again.  Life is serious business, but if I remember that I am walking on the earth, I will be able to navigate with a both ease and grace.

Looking forward to continuing to walk on the earth; I really do love have a love affair with the earth beneath my feet.  Hoping you do too!

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Moving across the country to a new city is far from easy.  We left behind many friends and some family too.  In many ways, our family lost our security blanket.   With each mile to the southwest we traveled further and further from our those folks who have been part of our beloved family of choice.  In so many ways, my boys and I are wondering:

  • Will we make friends?
  • Will we have help when we need it?
  • Will Tucson jazz our souls?

Of course we don’t have an answer yet, but I imagine Tucson will be amazing. The people I work with and the people on the street have all been full of kindness.

With each passing day, I find myself amazed at the warmth that surrounds me.  There have been large and small gifts at every turn.  People have opened their doors and invited us to stay.  We have yet to meet someone on the road or in a store that was less than pleasant.  People are offering insights of where to eat, where to fix our bikes, and what doctors to consult with.  And tonight, we were touched a totally unsuspected gift.

Tonight, the people in front of us paid for our ice cream.  Wow.  The gift touched me deeply.  Moving is expensive, tonight was a splurge that I probably shouldn’t have considered, yet it was something I needed to do for Dovi, my younger son.  He needed Imma (mommy) time and he loves ice cream!  We were having an amazing time together and schmoozing with strangers along the way.  We went to a recycling center to drop off recycling; we went to Barnes & Noble to look at books; and finally, we went to Coldstone for ice cream.  The best part of our evening is that Dovi and I really had fun together and we met cool people along the way too.

I am filled with gratitude.  The universe has been great to us.

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Saying by-Lisa Villa Prosen; Photo-Tre Le

Today on Facebook, I saw this photo posted on My Renewed Mind’s status line.  The moment I saw it, my mind soared.  Life’s journey has not always been easy for me; there has been intense loss, dramatic pain, and deep sadness.  In truth, none of these realities have ever overtaken me for long.  I have always found a way to surpass the challenges.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t suffered, it means that I have had to do a lot of work in order to become the healthy person that I am.

Many of the challenges that I have faced have been out of my control; I was forced to survive and even thrive in difficult conditions.  An example is when my son was critically sick; I had to spend days, weeks, months, and even years taking care of him in all sorts of settings that were not necessarily of my choosing.  Our children are never meant to suffer, but sometimes they do.  During that time, I had to honor the reality that we were facing and I had travel a path that kept my son alive and yet took away every ounce of freedom I had.  During the years of his illness, I couldn’t write, take walks, or explore the world around me.  The gift is that at the end of his journey, I was able celebrate his life with him.

Each one of us faces challenges in our lives.  Sometimes we can maneuver ourselves through the situations for a while and sometimes we are stuck.  It would be great to have choices, but reality doesn’t always allow it and sometimes it takes a little time to work situations out.  When I was a little girl, I had to grow up before I could leave home and become safe as an adult.  When I have had struggles in my work, I have had to try to work through the scenarios before moving forward.  Working through challenging relationships takes work, as does moving forward when those relationships are over.  Work, friendships, family dynamics are all part of life; honoring yourself in the midst of them is about deciding what makes you soar.  What do you need to thrive as a person?

For me, taking chances and letting my creative soul live is how I can be the happiest person, how I can be free.  Yes, I am part of a beautiful family as well as loving friends.   But in order for me to thrive with those I love, I must thrive within my own being.  Writing is how this becomes possible.

In this moment, boxes surround me.  I have been pushing hard since making a decision to leave Washington DC for Tucson a little more than a month ago.  And I have missed taking time to write in my own space and at a moment that writing calls to me.  I am doing taking the time now.


the song of my heart;

the feeling of my soul;

the meaning of my mind;

Is what makes me One.

These words were written when I was a young girl going through hell that none of us should ever know.  And today they touch me as much today as they did when I wrote them at 14 years old.  These words encompass the essence of my being.

Over the coming weeks, I will be continuing a 12 part series called “Seeking My Own Path to Simchah (Happiness): My Own Personal Happiness Project” This was inspired by book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  This series will explore the ways I have learned and continue to evolve as someone who seeks simchah, happiness.  The first two installments that were started before I moved to the southwest can be found:

May each of us move forward as individuals who strive to find our best selves; may we be free to explore our dreams and then follow our own dereckh, path to our own personal simchah, happiness.

With blessings  & light,


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