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Archive for May, 2015

more than anything
i want to trust a journey
that i don’t understand~
© Terri St. Cloud

I am a wandering Jew, a seeker, a dreamer. . .

While I was not born with wings, I was born with the urge to soar and the spirit to thrive.

Each and every exploration I take begins with a first step.  The terrain is always the wilderness, a terrain that I will only understand after I trust my steps and begin the dance of emergence.

 A lifetime of journeys never calms my spirit when it is time to start again. As someone who is ready to land and wants to do not just good things wherever I stand, but great things wherever I stand and beyond. I long to be impactful with how I walk in the world. I want to make a difference.

An inherent pressure emanates from those of us that actively strive to weave beauty and light into a world that is often full of challenges. There is so much holy work to be done and so many opportunities to make our voices count.

There is another side to my journey, perhaps a more important one. I am birthing the most authentic living soul I can be. I am ready to nurture that person as she becomes more grounded in what she truly believes. It is time to have my values and my dreams intersect in the healthiest of ways. I strive to walk consciously by caring for my body, my mind, and my soul. And as I do, my hope is that I will remember the larger world around me.

I have traveled some really rocky paths. I have stumbled, I have fallen, I have cried torrential downpours, but I have always continued to move forward. As a work in progress, my innermost prayer is that all previous journeys create someone worthy of making my next steps count.

May this trek weave together my desire to take care of the deepest part of me while intensely nurturing the world I live in, our world.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?”
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Father) 1:14

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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 others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Creating Your Makom Kadosh,
Your Sacred Place

pet-rock

As a writer, I have always fallen in love with sweet nooks that inspire my words to flow.

Until the last few years, I would plop myself down anywhere and write, but that isn’t the case now. But during my two-year Kol Zimra, Chant Leader’s Training with Rabbi Shefa Gold, my relationship to space changed. During this amazing series of workshops in New Mexico, I began to appreciate how creating a spiritual space enhanced my ability to dig deeper within myself allowing me to ultimately pull out ideas and thoughts worthy of sharing with others. I also began to understand that if I surrounded myself with beauty and calm energy, my entire spirit would soar.

My spirituality has developed significantly now that I am more cognizant of my surroundings. Today not only do I spend time writing, but I also take the time to chant, drum, dance, and pray. I think about my space when I eat, cook, read, and simply take time to breathe. Surrounding myself with what resonates within me enables me to a happier and calmer person.

Many moving parts combined create a sacred space for me. Over the years, I have learned that less is more. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist exactly, but I aspire to surround myself with only that which jazzes my soul. I want to love each of every fiber within my space. I am sensitive to colors, lighting, textures, smells. In the background, I always have a sense of the sounds; sometimes I want to hear nigunim (wordless melodies), sometimes chanting, sometimes rock, sometimes folk, and sometimes the sounds of the outdoors is perfect for my spirit. There are times I want to listen and times I want to sing, but I creatively ignite when hearing the songs and melodies that touch me deeply.

Years ago, I also discovered that life needs be part of my surroundings. Plants, flowers, herbs, and animals only enhance my mood. There is something heart-warming about being enveloped by life or by natural beauty.  My disposition tends to do better when I am around earthiness.

With all of this in mind, I am so looking forward to moving to Houston in ten days where I can establish a nurturing foundation that embraces who I am and where I can feel at home with my soul.

In my heart, I believe that in order to be content with what is, each of us need to love wherever we are standing or work towards whatever it is that we think we feel would be right for us.

Think about it, what do you need in order to make your personal space sacred.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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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 others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Honoring My Bruised and Fragile Heart

Picture by Chava

Picture by ME

Life is good. Really good. My sons are growing into awesome men. My dog still loves to herd. Over the last year, I have been held and supported at each and every step I have taken.  I have a job that I love now. . .one that I am hoping to continue in some capacity as time moves forward. And in less than two weeks, my sons and I are moving to Houston so I can begin an amazing new position.

So. . .while my world is blessed and full, I also have some shadows that keep me stretching and growing. As someone who honors the intensity that is within me, I have to acknowledge that there is so much on my mind at any given point.  I grapple with past hurt, deep feelings, and the state of our world. I struggle with wanting to me wiser, healthier, more beautiful, and most importantly impactful to the world I live. I wonder if I will ever be enough, do enough, and learn to articulate my thoughts better than I do now. Sometimes I simply feel bruised.

We all have so much to learn. I am certain that I am not the only person out there that wants to become a better version of myself. After a lifetime of struggles, there are parts of me that are wounded. So not only do I manage my body, my mind, and my soul, I also navigate the fear of the unknown. Will I have what I need in the coming months? home/food, health insurance, necessities, a way to help my kids with their education.

The beautiful part of my life is that I ALWAYS land on my feet – ALWAYS! But the years of challenges don’t go away just because things have ultimately worked. There are moments that I feel the pain of my heart being stomped on, remember seeing my child in ICU multiple times, or felt the wrath of someone’s anger. There are arguments and challenges that I remember clearly and moments when I felt silenced even though my voice should have mattered.

Part of my ability to live in a place of joy and inner peace is that I also recognize the dark moments. I allow myself to remember, to feel, to cry, and to mourn. I also celebrate that whatever happened to me didn’t permanently hurt my spirit. All that I went through fertilized my foundation so that I could become the person I am.

Each and every one of us have done a lot of work to grow into the people we are.  How beautiful is that?!?!

Today, is one of those days that I value who I am and how I got here, but in this moment, I am remembering and mourning some of the losses that got me here.

May we be blessed to live a life that leaves us celebrating the gifts even as we sometimes feel fragile.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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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 others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Learned Wisdom – from My Daddy

BeKind

My daddy, of blessed memory, use to talk to EVERYONE. I loved that about him. He showed me by example that regardless of what mood I was in that it was incumbent upon me to connect warmly with each and every person.

With my father as my guide, I always aspire to live up to his example. As a result:

  1. I always have a smile for those I face.
  2. Whenever possible, I hold the door open for whoever is behind me and behind them.
  3. If someone needs help, I don’t walk away or act like you don’t notice.
  4. Cell phones have their place; they should not be used in grocery store lines or any time it detracts from making connections with strangers. (Note: Dad died before cell phones were smart.)
  5. Take a moment to share a kind word, a kibitz (chit chat), a story with others.

There really is no option for taking a moment, to reach out and try to impact someone’s day.

May we all remember that kindness matter.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – The bells in the photo above come from one of my favorite places in Tuscon, Ben’s Bells. The mission of Ben’s Bells is  to inspire, educate, and motivate people  to realize the impact of intentional kindness, and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness, thereby strengthening ourselves, our relationships and our communities. For more information go to BensBells.org.

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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 others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

IMPERFECTION OR I’M PERFECTION:

PERHAPS. . .A LITTLE OF BOTH

In every way, I am a work in progress.There is always so much to do. The beauty of my journey is that it feels absolutely beautiful to walk in the world with the self awareness that has become part of me. Sometimes it is a challenge to accept how imperfect I am; I really do wish I was wiser, healthier, more thoughtful, and more attuned to the earth.  Yet it is because of my reality that I have the opportunity to do some awesome work and to grow as a human being.

In my own world! February 2015 - darker letting

Photos by Aryeh Grossman – Artistic layout by Marty Johnston

Each and every day, I focus on all of the areas that need my focus:

  1. Walking gently with the earth
  2. Making healthy lifestyle choices
  3. Acknowledging MY inner and outer beauty
  4. Seeking truth at every turn
  5. Strengthening my knowledge base as a Jewish Educator

As someone who is actively engaged in living consciously, I often hyper-focus on how to honor the person I am while positively impacting the world I live.

Each area above intertwines with the others. There is not one part of my journey that is an island. Becoming a healthy soul means making choices on how I interact with the earth and all of her inhabitants. As much as I love the moments when I am alone, I will never be an island. None of us are. We are all part of a much larger world even when we choose to disconnect.

The journey is not always easy, it is full of gifts and challenges. Sometimes it is scary and some time liberating. And for me, it is always intense.

I struggle with my imperfections. . .there are so many. And yet what I am coming to love that each imperfection leads me to climb the metaphoric mountains allowing me to strive to be the best human being I can be.

A few days ago, I realized that IMPERFECTION is actually I’M PERFECTION. I am sure someone came up with that one already, but it made me smile. Perhaps, just maybe, I am perfect just the way I am. 🙂

Hineini, Here I am!

May we all strive to be the most perfect people we can be without the guilt to shadow over that which is good.

With love light, and blessings,
Chava

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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 others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

drumming with dog

SabinoApril

Chava

Feb 12

Do What Jazzes YOUR Soul!!!

Life is really full. And while there are days, weeks, and even months when my life feels too heavy and kinetic, I know that if I don’t take care of myself, I will struggle with daily life. I am always traveling on My Journey Towards Wholeness.

Writing fuels my soul at it’s deepest level, I also need to be outdoors and moving in order to be whole. On any given day, I need to take time to breathe deeply and take in my surroundings not once by multiple times..

I am blessed with at plethora of things that I like to do. I also adore spending times with my sons, drumming, connecting with friends, and learning. I enjoy life.

If at all possible do work that makes your heart sing or that inspires you to grow. I’ve been blessed in that way, but I work hard to get there and stay there.

Nothing jazzes your soul unless you nurture it, water it, and sometimes prune it.

What do you like to do? Are you making time to do what you love? If not, why not? Consider making the time you need to make yourself feel balanced, content, or even happy. Just do it!

As I get ready to begin my next professional chapter, may I find the gifts in Houston and take time to jazz my soul. May you do the same wherever you are.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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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 others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation -  Sanctuary Bethesda, Maryland

Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation –
Sanctuary
Bethesda, Maryland

Rambling Musings of Going Home-to Adat Shalom

Yesterday I went home.

I didn’t go to the place I was raised; I wouldn’t want to go there.  Instead I went to the spiritual community that raised me as an educator, pushed me as a human being, and nurtured my soul when I needed it most. I went to Adat Shalom Reconstuctionist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland.

From the moment I drove in the parking lot, I knew I was returning home. With a sense of overwhelming joy, I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to be visiting my old stomping grounds. As soon as I got out of the car, I met with one of the most beautiful souls that welcomed me into her home on numerous occasions without question whenever I wanted to gather my Rosh Hodesh Girls. (This was a group of tweens and later teens that celebrated the new month together.)

While all loving connections are complicated, Adat Shalom was the community that empowered me to grow as the person and the human being that I am today. For six years I worked at Adat Shalom. Each and every day I was stretched, watered, and even pruned. There were moments when the growing pains were intense and other moments that my soul couldn’t stop singing.  And looking back, I can clearly see how deeply this Makom Kadosh, holy place touched my life and does to this very day.

The clergy and the community taught me how to be the most authentic me I could be. Each and every day that I came to work, I felt loved and respected. On the bad days, I knew I had some growing to do; on the good days, I knew I was far from becoming the best educator I could be. Through working with such thoughtful leaders, lay people, and families, I learned the power of discernment.

Looking back, I see that I worked with soul workers. The clergy, the teachers, Sheila Feldman (our executive director), and the staff. The lay leaders and the members were passionate and wise. While I sometimes struggled, I was also deeply in love. Leaving Adat Shalom was painful, but it was the right thing to do at that time in my life. And I will forever feel a sense of loss that I am no longer there.

The community was passionate about the world they live and those that live in it. It was at Adat Shalom that I started to understand individual rights and our collective responsibility. It was at Adat Shalom that I began to seriously (and with decisive information) to contemplate our impact on the environment and how we could make a difference for good. And it was at Adat Shalom that I found my voice. I became more thoughtful and conscious of my responsibility as a Jew, a woman, and a human being. I had a lot of work to do and I welcome the fact that I will always be doing the work.

When my child’s life hung by a thread, it was the loving energy of such a caring community that gave us the strength to navigate and ultimately survive the years of trauma.  Both strangers and friends brought us food, offered their prayers, and even visited us during the nightmares that nearly took my son’s life.

As soon as I walked into the sanctuary, I knew exactly where I would sit. Seeing my beloved friend sitting by himself, I was thrilled to totally surprise the person who I had lost track of. Years before he and his loving wife were traveling on the west coast when we were preparing to what would become a 22 hour brain surgery in Los Angeles. Even today, Aryeh, my son, who remembers little of that time in our lives, remembers our friends going out of the way to comfort him. BTW, it worked.

I love that I had Aryeh with me yesterday. He has ALWAYS loved our Adat family as much as I did. We have both missed our Adat Shalom community.

What no one realized yesterday is that my son wore a tallit that I made for him. The words on the atarah, the collar, said I am still alive. In Hebrew, the words remind us that in spite of what many believed would be his death sentence, my son is still alive. At one point during services, I rested my head against his arm and he quietly said, “It feels so good to be here wrapped in this tallit and at Adat Shalom.” My son is very much alive and I think it is the Adat Shalom community and his relenting spirit that gave him (and our entire family) the strength to soar.

Towards the last moments of the service, Aryeh decided to rise for his first time to say Mourners ‘Kaddish, for his father’s father, his grandfather who had died two weeks earlier. No one at Adat Shalom knew that he was mourning a significant loss in his life, but it was at home that my son was given the space to cry and to feel the full impact of his loss. It didn’t matter that no one knew, it was at Adat Shalom that my son felt safe to stand and mourn.

There are many that come to Adat Shalom with their own Jewish journeys. I love that I learned so much about what it means to honor each individual’s spirit during my time there. I wish I could thank EVERYONE that crossed my path so that I could personally thank them.

Being called to the bima, stage, by Cantor Rachel, my childhood friend and colleague, literally took my breath away. As I stood on a bima that I had been on many times before, I saw the faces of so many beautiful souls. While I didn’t get a chance to connect with each and every person individually, I felt like the luckiest person in the world at that moment. And then carrying the Torah around the sanctuary made my heart sing. It was during my time at Adat Shalom that my entire relationship with the Living Torah evolved and was given wings that had been clipped earlier in my life. It was with this community, that my relationship with the world grew to beautiful heights. It was this community that I learned that everything is Torah.

Yesterday, I went home. I can’t wait to do so again in a couple of weeks before I move to Houston to what I believe will be a beautiful taste of what I had at Adat Shalom. Wow, I am so blessed.

May each and every one of find Makom Kadosh, this holy place within ourselves and within the communities that we call home.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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