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Archive for August, 2014

Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775  http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is 5 Elul or 25 days until 5775; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move towards the High Holy Days and the days that follow.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

During each blog post of my Elul Journeys, I will share a poem, a saying, a teaching that has helped me navigate the world.  Let me know what you think!

Last week was a challenging week with many gifts interspersed.  Yet, I have been struggling internally with how I should best take care of my family.  As a rule, I never stay in darkness too long, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my moments.

As luck would have it, I have noticed that the blog entry below continues to be read multiple times every day.  Today, I decided that I should reread what I wrote a long while ago and see if there is a message there.  And you know what I found?  A message that is perfect for my Elul Journeys.

Looking forward to hearing if the message touches you too.

With blessings & light,
Chava

Reposted from January 13, 2013:

Never Take Life for Granted: Tomorrow is Not A Given

Finding peace within the storms of life makes it possible to ride the waves with a little more ease.  ~Chava

With each breath, I wonder. Where will life’s journey take me and those I love?  I don’t take even a moment for granted.  I love deeply; I feel deeply; I live deeply.  The intensity is part of my soul and with that intensity I choose to live.

Tomorrow is not a given; it is a hope.

Tragedy can touch us at a moment’s notice; sometimes it does.  And tragedy is not only simply about loss of life; sometimes it can be about loss of what was.  We have all suffered loss of some sort or another.  A friendship is severed; a beloved becomes suddenly ill; a moment changes everything.  And while loss can penetrate our being, it doesn’t have to define our every step.  Or if it does, may it be for good.

I am no stranger to tragedy.  I have experienced pain, violence, sudden loss, and seriously ill children.  Years of my life have been altered by events that should never have been experienced.  And yet today I smile freely and I appreciate the gifts that life offers.  Life jazzes my soul; every turn leads to an open door full of possibilities.

With the knowledge that things can change in a moment, I actively engage in life.  I don’t allow frustration or anger to dominate my inner peace for any length of time.  I strive to surround myself with people that put a smile on my face, warm my heart, and inspire both myself and others to grow.  And when tough moments come, as they undoubtedly do, I meet each moment head on and let it go as soon as possible.  Life is too sacred to wrap myself in darkness.

Living life fully is not optional for me.  With the knowledge that life can’t be taken for granted, I try to honor my soul and the soul of those around me.  One of the people I admire most in my life, I admire from a distance.  This person actively engages in life; he does that which excites him and he pushes himself to the limit.  While I do the same in different ways, I do not choose to do it physically.  Unfortunately, I really can’t any longer; I used to.  The good news is that I navigate other amazing roads and new journeys at every turn.

The words below resonate for me.  While life is not a given and tomorrow might not come, I can still keep moving forward in whatever way works for me.

“If you can’t fly then run,

if you can’t run then walk,

if you can’t walk then crawl,

but whatever you do,

you have to keep moving forward.”

~Martin Luther King Jr. 

 

 

 

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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

 

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775 Introduction http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

This is what it takes to create a spiritual home wherever you go.

This is what it takes to create a spiritual home wherever you go.

Reflection

Over the past 4 days, since Rosh Hodesh Elul (the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul), I have been actively preparing for Rosh HaShana and loving every moment of it.  And then suddenly this morning as I sang some of the verses from Psalm 27*, I felt a bit bereft because for the first time in my life, I do not feel like I have a spiritual home.  As a professional Jew, I have previously had communities that were easier for me to be a part of spiritually, but I have rarely felt uncomfortable in a community I have worked.  Only one time, I heard a rabbi give a sermon on Yom Kippur in which he said that Tisha B’Av should be disregarded.  It was the one and only time I almost walked out of High Holy Day services with my family.

Judaism is a part of my essence.  I love how it fits into my life, pushes me to think, and creates a cocoon where I can live.

I am a God-Wrestler.  I question, I pray, I hope, I vision and I wrestle.  And on the days that I don’t quite know how God fits into my practice of Judaism, I let go and trust the universe.  And throughout it all, I try to live a life of Godliness.  Every place I walk is a sanctuary, so why in this moment should I feel like I have no spiritual home.  The mountains and the desert are seriously my sanctuary.  I love the earth; I love so many special spaces that exude God-like energy.  I used to have a yoga studio that felt like God’s sanctuary.  Today, there is no space that is calling me for the Rosh HaShanah, yet I have to take my kids to services for the High Holy Days.

And did I say, I literally have no money for the holidays or for much? What a concept for me.  The good news is that my old ‘congregation’ of employment wouldn’t turn me a way and I believe other congregations would open their doors too, but still it is sad for me.  I believe that if I weren’t a mother, I would choose to create a spiritual space by myself or with a few others.  I love Judaism and I love living it!

So as I take each day of Elul to create a stronger physical and spiritual core, I am grappling with feeling like I have no place to go.  And yet, in reality, I know that my sons and I will feel comfortable wherever we go.  Tucson is full of loving synagogue communities.  Can’t wait to hear the shofar blown as I sit within community.

Feeling blessed even as I struggle with some challenging realities.  The sun and moon always shine brightly in the desert.

With blessings & light,
Chava

*From Rosh Hodesh Elul through Simchat Torah, it is part of the Jewish tradition to say Psalm 27 two times a day.  Here is a link to the Psalm in Hebrew and English. http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt2627.htm

 

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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775  http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is the forth day following Rosh Hodesh (beginning of the month) Elul; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move forward.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

During each blog post of my Elul Journeys, I will share a poem, a saying, a teaching that has helped me navigate the world.  Let me know what you think!

Today, I will be quoting from Anne Lamott, the writer and teacher that speaks to my core being.  Her transparency has helped open the door to my own transparency.  She inspires me to be honest, to write whatever comes to my head, and to have integrity in how I walk in the world.  While I do not know Anne Lamott, I have read her books, listened to all of her books on tape, and listened to her teachings and interviews.  And I still have so much to learn from her.  My hope and dream is that I can one day study with her in a workshop format; she is also one of only a few writers/artists that I dream of sitting down for tea with.  Anne inspires me to become a better writer and a much better human being.

Nearly all of Anne’s writings and diatribes resonate deeply with me; they make me think.

“Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.” 

AND

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. . . . ”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Being less than perfect is reality.  I realize that my desire for perfectionism is an illusion that holds on tight and takes the air out of whatever it is I am trying to accomplish. When I am in a place of needing perfection the most, it means I am nurturing the broken parts of me that need soothing.  Unfortunately, the brokenness has succeeded in destroying some of my creativity over the years.  Sad, but true.  I have struggled to find peace in the chaos that happens just before the explosion of creativity.

More and more frequently I am getting glimpses that the chaos of my mind and sometimes my physical environment has become a welcomed part of life. I love that my mind is full of ideas and that my fingers help me navigate my heart, my mind, and my soul.  I wish I could say that perfectionism doesn’t impact my life any longer, but it does.  The key is that I can now often take a step back and embrace imperfection with a lot more ease.

What I have learned in the past several years is that I can strive for perfection, but in the end I am learning to be happy with a job well done that has taught me many lessons along the way. 🙂

 

 

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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775 – http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is the third day following Rosh Hodesh (beginning of the month) Elul; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move forward.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

During each blog post of my Elul Journeys, I will share a poem, a saying, a teaching that has helped me navigate the world.  Let me know what you think!

שמע קולי – Hear My Voice

Have you ever noticed that the same words can have many different meanings depending how they are said, to whom they are said, and when they are said?

Words have power.  When we use them wisely and with intention, they have the ability to impact those that hear them and those that speak them.

The two most significant or empowering words in my world are  שמע קולי – Hear My Voice.  They have guided me for over five years in each and every human interaction I have.  And while I mostly say them silently, they remind me on how I need to walk through life.

Initially these words came to me in a chant that helped center me and made me feel whole.  It is a chant that I wrote when I needed deep medicine to heal my sad and mourning soul.  And the beauty of it is that as I have grown so has this chant.  The words are still helping me to grow into the human being that I want to be.

שמע קולי (Hear My Voice) has three parts:

  1. When I am first chanting these words, I am saying the words to me.  I need to hear my voice; I need to listen to my thoughts, my beliefs, my needs, and my dreams.  With each repetition, I have to accept what I really feel and find a way to manage what I know in my heart, my mind, and my soul. It is my job to not only listen to what is on my mind, but for me to wake up and navigate where I am in the most honest ways that I can.
  2. When I am chanting this second part, I am focused on my relationship with others.  If I am navigating a soulful relationship with a beloved, I concentrate on what I need and what the other person may need of me.  My prayer is that the two of us (whoever we are) are working towards our connection together in whatever ways we need to do this.  I also use part two of this chant practice to work on all the dynamics I have with everyone I interact.
  3. Finally, in the third part of this chant, I am concentrating on how I walk in the larger world.  I want to have integrity in all that I do and in all the thoughts that I have.  In a perfect world, I want my heart, my mind, and my soul to be aligned with one another.  I want to live actively and consciously with the values that I hold dear.  I want to walk with the godliness that guides my spirit.  When I write a blog or work on my book, I want the words to be meaningful and truthful.  I believe that I am part of the universe and everything I does matters in some way.

When I begin and end this chant practice, I do all three parts; however, in the middle I focus on whatever relationship needs the most work.

Creating healthy relationships is holy work.

As my Elul Journeys continue, may I take the time I need to listen to my voice and to create healthy interactions with the world around me. May I nurture my love of life and feel inspired to walk fully within the beauty that surrounds me.

With blessings & light,
Chava

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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775 – http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is the second day following Rosh Hodesh (beginning of the month) Elul; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move forward.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

During each blog post of my Elul Journeys, I will share a poem, a saying, a teaching that has helped me navigate the world.  Let me know what you think!

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks

Ever noticed how many balls get tossed at you at any given moment?

Over the years, I have come to realize the importance of dealing with all that comes at me with warmth and a smile.  Life happens.  Cars break down.  We lose jobs.  People in our lives have bad moments.  Each of these realities affect our lives.

While I strive to stay even-tempered, it doesn’t always happen. I am, after all, human.   🙂  What I love about the Rumi poem above is that it has become a gentle reminder that I should embrace all the emotions and realities that are happening in life and find a way to move forward with what is.

With blessings and light,  Chava

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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775 – http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is the first day following Rosh Hodesh (beginning of the month) Elul; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move forward.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

One of my most favorite sayings in this world is:

“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to a Young Poet”

 

Book

This one saying is a guide that stays with me each and every day.  In fact, I often carry Rilke’s book with me wherever I go; I need this reminder that while the steps of life’s journey can be overwhelming, I know that I am not the only one who is trying to wrestle with the questions of what is unsolved in my heart.  Nearly every day, I ask myself:

  • Am I following my heart?
  • Am I impacting people/the world for good?
  • How can I be a healthier person?
  • With all that I have done for my sons, is it enough? In what ways did I and do I fall short?
  • Do I walk gently in the world?
  • What do I need to be more whole? more beautiful?
  • Can I find a way to support myself financially while following my passion?
  • Is there a way to make writing an active part of my professional life?
  • Have I done all that I can do in order to repent for any wrong-doings I have done?
  • Am I remembering to count my blessings and to find light as I walk through the world?

The questions that plague me are never-ending.  And yet, I am fortunate, instead of letting them trouble me, I use them to empower me so that I may move forward with an open and loving heart, mind, and soul.

Today is Day 1 of my Elul Journey.  I am excited that while it is only 10:45 AM, I have accomplished nearly all of the six daily goals Yay!

Don’t forget to ‘live the questions now’.

Make today a great day!

With love and light,

~Chava

 

 

 

 

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Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

Life is a challenge to be embraced!

Hineyni (Here I am)

Elul is a month of reflection; for one month prior to the High Holy Days, Jews take time and prepare for the upcoming year.  On Rosh HaShanah, we celebrate the New Year and on Yom Kippur, we pray that we will be written in the book of life or at least that we will be able to fully experience life in the upcoming year.  For me, this year will be the year of change; it will be my year to shape my future and to reach towards the next chapters of my life.  There is no option to reaching and moving forward, not for me.

For now, I won’t focus on all that I am navigating, but I will share that there are moments when I live in fear of where my life is now and how I will get to the place that will sustain me.  The good news is that for the most part, I believe that I will ultimately land on my feet and in a far greater place than I am now.

Know that this isn’t easy; it isn’t easy to do a cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul by looking back at the previous year. Who wants to look at their mistakes or ways they could have operated on a full cylinder?  On the other hand, by looking deeply inside, we are granted the gift of perspective.

Accountings make me happy.  When I make accountings, it means I am working towards emerging from where I am currently standing.

Over the next 29 days, I will begin prepare for Rosh HaShanah and all that the new year will bring.  Here is how:

  1. Wash my fingers/hands by using a special cup – This is a way to spiritual prepare for the day by cleansing my fingers before actively engaging in the day’s Elul Journey.
  2. Blow the shofar – The sound of the ram’s horn will waken my spirit and remind me to take a moment to reflect about where I am and where I want to go.
  3. 30-Day Plank Challenge – In the plank challenge, the goal is to build core strength. I love having another reminder to take care of my core and to build a stronger me. (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/409616528582078793/?fb_ref=285275095054683292%3A7AUoGBLL1Gafopel2Fzr)
  4. Chant Psalm 27 daily (actually 2 times) – This chant is a tool that reminds us that while we can hope for God to emerge, but we must do everything we can to strengthen ourselves so that we can become the best we can and live our days with God or with Godliness.
  5. Chant/Meditate each day for 10-30 minutes. On Shabbat, I will try to embrace this practice for at least an hour.
  6. Blogging – Each day, I will share a poem/prose that moves me forward through my Elul Journey. During some of those days, I might also do a fuller check-in on how all the other parts of this daily journey are going.

Taking my Elul Journey in such a public way is exciting and challenging.  With each breath, each action, and each word, I am making a choice to emerge from wherever I am to a place that is not fully known to me yet.  As the journey unfolds, may the seeds of vulnerability blossom into beauty and a place of strength.

May 5775 be full of blessings and beauty at every turn!

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