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Archive for May, 2014

Middah (character trait) focus: Loving what is

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

“The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become a lover of what is.” ~Baruch Spinoza

In this final week of the counting of the Omer, I feel like it is a good think about considering where I fit into the entire universe with all of it’s gifts and challenges.  In traditional circles, this is considered the week of malkhut/kingdom.  With that in mind, I want to openly consider what it could mean to really rebirth or navigate our towards freedom.

Life is hard, really hard at times.  Sometimes it is difficult to tread the challenges.  Yet once we fully connect with what is real, even what needs to be transformed within ourselves, we can love what is because it is all part of the journey.

I always seek to find the light that surrounds me.  This past week, I found out that I wasn’t a candidate for a position even though I had spend over four hours on the phone with folks.  What is lovely is that the calls were full of positive interactions and I was able to articulate many of my ideas and hear other ideas in healthy exchange; the interview process including the rejection letter were really quite lovely. And after reflection, I believe I could have had a good experience, but it was probably not the best environment for someone who often thinks outside of the box.  I need a position, but that one lacked what I needed in a career position.

Finding the gifts within all aspects of life, good and challenging, is the only way I know how to walk through the world. Loving what is offers me a chance to embrace the moment even the ones that need to ultimately be transformed.

 

Finding light within darkness.

Finding light within darkness. . . .

 

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Middah (character trait) focus: Listen to the quiet

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

“”Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” 
~Maya Angelou’s last tweet from May 23,

When I was a little girl my father used to look into my eyes and put each hand on one of my ears and apply loving pressure.  As he did, he would whisper ‘Listen to the silence.”  I loved those peaceful moments.  When I had my own sons, my father reminded me of those moments and started doing it to each of my boys when they were just hours/days old.  Even today, I remember the warmth and the loving feeling that came over me.  I love how children always smile or relax when you hold their ears; it is so sweet.

Today I love the silence and the feeling that overcomes me when I am able to sit in the silence and appreciate the messages that surround me.  Even today I feel the warmth and loving feeling when I take a moment and listen to the silence.  Perhaps the warm feeling that washes over me is God’s energy or perhaps it is Godliness; either way I will welcome it.

May we each find a way to do that kind of listening, in that kind of quiet.

Listening to the quiet of the sunrise in Tucson. . .

Listening to the quiet of the sunrise in Tucson. . .

 

 

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Middah (character trait) focus: Creating Healthy Boundaries

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

“The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.” 
~Tara BrachRadical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

We all have different needs.  While I need a lot of solitary time so that I can write, others thrive by being surrounded by family and friends.  Finding a healthy boundary that works for each of us is a key to being healthy.

In life there is so much we need to accomplish for our families, our friends, ourselves AND for our work and our communities.  We don’t always have a choice on our timing, but we do need to create the pockets of space that allow us to thrive.  We can also become more aware about how we communicate with others and allow for healthy boundaries within those connections.

May each of us honor ourselves and others too, by allowing for healthy boundaries.

 

 

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Middah (character trait) focus: ‘Say what you need to say’

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Sometime in the last year or two I found myself struggling with how to share my thoughts with someone I loved.  There were things I wanted to say, but I was terrified that I would lose the person in my life if I didn’t say what I needed to say.  And I was also aware that if I didn’t say what was weighing heavy on my heart, I would lose myself and feel forever crushed.  It was a painful time in my life.

During this time, the song “Say” by John Mayer kept coming on the radio.  Each time I heard the words with the melody, I found myself more ready to speak my thoughts.  In truth ‘saying what I needed to say’ didn’t make everything better, it rarely does.  It did, however, help me to clear the air and to ultimately move forward.

Since that time, this song has come to my head each and every time I find myself locked into what feels like a silent place.  I have to remember that my voice matters and my ideas count.  While silence is a powerful tool which inspires me to think and to become grounded, my voice and my thoughts are worthy of being heard.  The key is finding the balance.

May we all always remember that our voice matters and to ‘say what [we] need to say’.

“Say” except

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You’d better know that in the end
Its better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say againEven if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide openSay what you need to say [x24]

Writer(s): John Mayer, John Clayton Mayer
Copyright: Sony/ATV Tunes LLC, Specific Harm Music, Goodium Music, Reach Music Publishing-digital O.B.O. Goodium Music

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Middah (character trait) focus: Allow for the chaos to lead to. . . .

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Courtesy of The Art of Simple Facebook page.

Courtesy of The Art of Simple Facebook page.

In the midst of the chaos or within life’s disorderliness, amazing ideas and creativity emerge.  For those of you that know me well, you know that I tend to need an organized space in order to create; physical chaos drives me insane.  Having said that,  nothing in life is simple and never has been.  So instead of fighting life’s craziness, I tend to welcome it and then embrace it as I move forward.  Fighting the chaos only frustrates me, so I try to go with the flow and handle all that is front of me.

I love how the greatest findings happen when it appears that the challenges are too great.

May each of us navigate life’s chaos (in whatever form it takes) and experience huge gifts as we actively embrace the journey.

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Middah (character trait) focus: Hope

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Only through action can we have hope; hope without action doesn’t go very far.

Courtesy of the American Jewish World Service Facebook page.

Courtesy of American Jewish World Service Facebook page.

May each of our voices and our physical actions lead towards a real reason to hope.

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Middah (character trait) focus: Loving My Teens & All My Students For Who They Are

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Over the years I have been transformed by the young people that have touched my life; each and every one of them added depth to my life.  Somehow they trusted me and as their trust grew so did my ability to connect with them.  What I love about all of the children and teens that I have known over the years is that as long as I was willing to listen, I could build relationships with them.  I am so humbled by the different connections I have experienced.

Back in 2002, when I started working at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, I had no idea how to work with preteen girls.  But I didn’t actually realize that I didn’t have the skills, I faked it and somehow with each success I grew.  I loved the girls that were to become my Rosh Hodesh Girls (a group that met during the first days of the new moon each month); my life was better because of the work I did with them for several years.  The work transformed me and made me more aware of what it means to be a teacher, a mentor, woman, and a friend.  I wish I could thank each and every one of the young women today, but I have lost contact over the years.  Sigh.

Why am I reflecting back to my Rosh Hodesh Girls now?

Loved my time with Lucy Heller, Karen Judin, Rachel Rheingold - shown with Chava Gal-Or (from left to right)

Loved my time with Lucy Heller, Karen Judin, and Rachel Rheingold – shown with Chava Gal-Or (from left to right)

Today, three amazing young women took me to lunch.  Two years ago, I met them when I began working at Temple Emanu-El in Tucson.  Two of them taught Israeli dance and one was a madricha, (a teaching assistant); all three of them were giving and wise with their students and their friends too.  Within a very short time of meeting these three teens, I grew to like them very much; they became people that I now consider to be friends.  While I have always treasured the relationships I have built with my students, it was my relationship with the now college students from Adat Shalom that opened me up to really building meaningful relationships with those that were once simply my students.

One of the things I treasured most about my time with the Temple Emanu-El teens today was when they told me how I impacted them.  What I know now is that I touched their lives because I respected them as individuals and as teens; I listened to them and appreciated whatever they brought to the table; I trusted them to be leaders.  The bottom-line is that I do not believe in coercive leadership; I believe in building partnerships.

So often I work with rabbis, teachers, and parents that feel the need to tell our teens and all of our children not only how to walk in the world. but how to use their minds.  I don’t feel this way.  I want to open a door or a window.  I want to share the tools I treasure and the knowledge that has guided me throughout life; I want to give those I work with the room to play and to experience Judaism in a way that is comfortable for them.  My goal is always to hear both what those I work with are saying and what they are not yet saying; I want all the children, teens, and adults that I work to be comfortable with me and the gifts I have to offer.  My door is open.

Today I realized that all three teens were not just my co-workers, but my friends.  May they always remember that my door will be open to them.  I have grown to love them not simply as I love all my students and families; I love them as the beautiful souls that they are; I love them as my friends.

I will always be grateful to the Adat Shalom girls and the families that trusted me so many years ago.  Without them, I would not be the person I am.

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Middah (character trait) focus: Honoring our elders – Ki-bud ze-kei-nim

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

My parents never made it to old age; until January, I had rarely experienced being with someone who was growing older and needing some assistance in order to navigate life.  In fact, it has only been very recent that I have noticed that I have some close friends that are experiencing things that I thought only happened to older people.  In the last few months, I have had close friends have cataract surgery, knee replacement, hip replacement among other things.  Don’t these things only happen to people that are getting older?  I wouldn’t know, of course, because I am not really aging – am I?

Seriously though, since my ‘professional’ position went from full-time, to half-time, to jobless, I have had the opportunity to help people that are aging.  For some, aging happens slowly; for others, it happens more quickly. Every person ages on their own trajectory.  Bottom-line, people that are aging need support; sometimes they need help with basic skills and other times just with some harder tasks that were once a norm.  Honoring our elders, all of our elders is simply everyone’s responsibility.

Recently, I had the experience of watching a system that is supposed to care for their residents, fail.  The good news is that I believe this was not a norm for this location, but it wasn’t nice for the period of time that things were going wrong.  If you have your loved ones in a facility, make sure you are checking in and that you really know what is going on with your loved ones.  Unfortunately, some seniors, like children, do not have the words or the ability to protect themselves.  Protecting our loved ones and friends should be second nature; make sure you make no assumptions and that you stay alert.

What I know now is that caring for older loved ones or anyone that is older takes patience and kindness.  Each and every person deserves respect regardless of whether or not they can understand everything going on.  When you see a parent, a friend, or even someone shopping who seems older and perhaps frustrated, take a moment to find out if you can help in any way.  And remember to always treat not only older folks, but all folks, as human beings.

May I be blessed with the discernment that allows me to take care of those that need my love and care; may I always have an open door to really see what I need to do in order to care for those that I work with.

Honoring my elders and all human beings is not optional.

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Middah (character trait) focus: Build a Healthy Foundation

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

During much of my life, I wanted to be fortified by people that could comfort me and protect me; I wanted to be surrounded by a cocoon of  beloveds.

Today as I was reflecting on the what it means to build a healthy foundation, I realized that each individual needs to independently build their own strong yesod, foundation; only by nurturing yourself can you have the power to go from slavery to freedom ultimately as a means to sustain and help one to become their highest self.  While each of us can gain support from those that surround us, we need to do some incredible work ourselves.

Building a healthy foundation means:

Breathe deeply, move frequently.
Nurture your soul, fuel your body.
Believe in yourself, reach for your dreams.
Do your part to repair the world and do it with all your heart.
Give yourself space to feel and to be.

Surround yourself with people that accept who you are.
Laugh and cry as you are called to do.
Listen to the words and the space between the words.
Love and be loved.
Trust in the universe and in the Godliness that is.

Inspiration for this blog came from Alden Solovy, a writer, a liturgist, a poet, and a Facebook friend.  Here is a link to his blog in which he honors Day 37 of the Omer http://tobendlight.com/2012/04/15/ethics/.

 

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Photo courtesy of Janie Grackin Did you notice the butterfly? :)

Photo courtesy of Janie Grackin
Did you notice the butterfly? 🙂

Middah (character trait) focus: Accepting gifts

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Gifts come in so many different forms: shipping packages, active helping, a listening ear, gift wrap, natural beauty, insight, etc.  At any given moment, gifts surround us, but sometimes we have to open our eyes extra wide so that we can really notice what you see in front of you.

Over the last few days, I have been literally blown away to the point of tears as I have felt surrounded by the love of friends near and far.  As I navigate life and all that it has to offer, I am feeling the love and care of people that are giving me their love, things I need, time to be authentic, job leads, and friendship.  Blessings really do surround me at every turn.

In the midst of life’s trials and tribulations, may each and every one of us notice and accept the many gifts that surround us.

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