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Archive for June, 2015

Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed? Yesterday was my day! But with my mattress on the floor, I didn’t have far to go.

Nearly every moment of the day, I was either close to tears or crying. I felt like a storm that left tons of puddles. My spirit felt crushed and my heart felt broken. Sometimes it is hard to believe how deeply I feel.

Over the course of yesterday and probably most any day, if I allowed myself, I could cry for all the injustices that have surrounded my life. I could also cry because nine spiritual souls were murdered in their House of Prayer. I could cry for the homeless people I see on every corner in Houston. I could cry for my perceptions of US and Israel politics. I could cry because I have some friends that are struggling with their lives. I could cry for the wildfires that are destroying land I love (and making life challenging for so many.) I could cry because I am missing one very beloved soul that was in my life who for various reasons is essentially dead to me. Yesterday was one of those days that I wish I wasn’t so sensitive.

Raw intensity is absolutely a reality of my being. I love deeply; I feel deeply. When I allow myself the time and space, I am a very gentle soul that can usually manage all of my moving parts. Usually. Not always.

Yesterday was not a day for holding back my tears. I cried. I sulked. AND regardless of how I was feeling, I kept finding rainbows. Bright beautiful rainbows.  Nearly every moment of my day included beautiful ironies that imbued a sense of balance within my melancholy spirit.

  • As my eyes my opened this morning, I saw an absolutely beautiful photo taken by the amazing Jade Beall. All of Jade’s photos fill my eyes with tears; she has a way of capturing the most awe-inspiring women and children. Now that would have been enough, but then I read the words of an absolutely stunning woman who had never seen her beauty before she saw Jade’s photos of her. Both women were full of pure grace in my eyes.
  • After a little while, I read David Bedrick’s thoughts on self-love. In that moment, I wanted to skip it. I wasn’t open to the possibility. And then I read the Gregory Orr poem:

    Squander it all!

    Hold nothing back.

    The heart’s a deep well.

    And when it’s empty,
    It will fill again.

  • A short time later, also on David Bedrick’s discussion on self-love, I saw a photo of a mural that seemed to be reminding me how to live my life. Great message for the perfect moment. (see below)
  • One of my closest friends called.
  • After being told that one of my congregant’s dog was essentially afraid of his own shadow and does not go to anyone, Rocky couldn’t stop coming to me for love. I felt so blessed to receive this pup;s love!
  • Aryeh, my older son, called from where he is working at a camp in California. I am so proud of him for persevering the wildfires and the very rustic conditions that are a result of the wildfires.
  • A friend mailed me a fabulous book!!! I was so surprised and touched!
  • Dovi and I cooked a great dinner together.
  • On Facebook, I admitted how lonely I was feeling in Houston and people reached out. So many people reminded me that I was loved. In the end, new friends invited me into their lives and other friends helped make connections so that I wouldn’t feel so lonely. Now I will experience a chant group tonight, Gay Pride over the weekend, and new friends and new experiences over the coming weeks. I may even try karaoke with my new friends. 🙂
  • I read a blog by Amanda Palmer who’s best friend just died. That opened up the floodgates and allowed me to cry. Remember, I was also in the midst of actively grieving my own loss.
  • Students voted to take down the Confederate Naval Flag at the The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, SC.
  • I took a long walk with my dog and used that time to chant!!! Awe-someness!!!
  • And then there were the sayings that kept showing up guiding me how to live life with more grace and personal integrity. Here is the one that resonated, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. KEEP THE CHANNEL OPEN!” As quoted in The Life and Work of Martha Graham (1991) by Agnes de Mille.
  • A couple of friends called and allowed me the safe space to feel and share what I was feeling.
  • While I was looking forward to the Gratitude and Trust Summit or #gratitudetrust140 for today, I was so grateful that late last night Jeff Pulver and I chatted on Facebook and he messaged me the info so I could log on to LiveStream!!! I am so fortunate to witness Jeff’s inspirational journey and how his visions impact the so many.

Reflection: Even as I struggled with intense sadness and pain yesterday, I kept finding blessings at every turn. And while, the blessings couldn’t heal me from my pain, they sure filled my spirit with light. Now that’s what I find ironic.

Just in case you may be wondering, rainbows make me cry too!!!

REMINDER:

Photo Courtesy of Joel Gunz-Portland, Oregon's Alberta Street

Photo Courtesy of Joel Gunz-                     Portland, Oregon’s Alberta Street

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I am hard on myself. I never believe that I am enough, that I give enough, that I am present enough. This is especially true for doing my part to repair the world (tikun olam) or to stand up for the politics I believe in.

Instead of lamenting about what I could have or should have done before this time, I have decided to begin doing what I can now. This actually started weeks ago, but over the last days, I have really been called to action.

Here I am; I am here to serve you!

Here I am; I am here to serve you!

 On Wednesday night, two things happened that nudged me out of my inertia.

  1. Nine beautiful souls were massacred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
  2. A devastating fire in the San Bernadino National Forest near where my son is working in Angelus Oaks, California forced the staff to evacuate from where they were camping. For this moment, the camp is safe, but all is not looking good for that area. At this point 17,000 acres has been destroyed and the staff only have the belongings that they had on their overnight. I am happy that the residents and firefighters are safe at this point; may that continue! I am devastated for the wildlife.

The visceral reaction that I had initially shifted to a deep desire to ‘do something’.  By Thursday, I asked my chant group for possible chants so that we could shift the energy, I created resource sheets for comforting those in mourning, those affected by the deaths, and for the wildfires too.

Nearly every waking moment since Wednesday, I have chanted, prayed, visualized, healing for all in need. I haven’t been able to sleep or eat much either. I have allowed a few tears to fall and my heart to crack open.

And yesterday, I called a local reverend to ask if he would mind if I joined his upcoming vigil. I also emailed my rabbi to see if she would be willing to have my new congregation host a shloshim* gathering for the local AME church. Regardless, I will be reaching out to them myself and finding out if perhaps I can organize a mandala making gathering so that we could send cards or mandalas to each and every member/family of the Charleston church.

The bottom-line is I am a tree hugger and a lover of all life-force. I may not be able to do much, but I can do something. There is a part of me that is simply not able to sit back and do nothing.

Over the years, I have been inspired by people that make a difference. Today, I have the ability to touch lives. Just because I have yet to do enough for others doesn’t mean I have to stay on that trajectory.

Politically, I plan to find my voice over the coming year for the upcoming elections, gun control, and the environment. Next summer, I am hoping to find a trip that will allow for me to learn more and have a greater impact in American policy towards Israel. I live in Houston, Texas now; it is my time to step up to the plate. I can’t hide from being involved any longer.

It is also time for me to celebrate that my life is quite amazing. My sons are healthy young men that are beginning their launch into adulthood. During much of their growing years, I was absorbed with their healing from serious illnesses. (They are both healthy now.) And in recent years, I had some of my own personal challenges to contend with.  But it is important for me to remember that I rarely sat back and did nothing. There were years when I volunteered in shelters weekly, took in a homeless family for six months, did work for the environment, stood strong for Israel, worked towards eliminating modern-day slave labor, and did my part for local and national politics. BUT I truly have not done enough and I am ok with that. As long as I stand by the below equation now:

KNOWLEDGE + VOLITION + ACTION = RESULTS**

After my older son healed from serious illness, I had a false start and thought I would do more, but it wasn’t my time. I have to find peace with that reality. I am not the same person I was then. I have faced a few more demons, fear of homelessness, and what it means to work for a hourly wage. Both my spirit and my body were seriously impacted by what happened to me in Tucson, but I am thriving now.  Still, Tucson gave me one of the most precious gifts imaginable, it gave me the ability to hear differently and the determination to help others.

So, here I am. Hineini. I am here to serve others, to impact the world for good, and to weave my words so that others may be drawn to reflect, to stretch, and to grow.

With every fiber of my being, I pray that my actions and my words do their part for tikun olam, repairing the world, while I walk gently and lovingly with each step.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Notes:
*In traditional Judaism, the first 30 days after someones burial is for intense mourning. For this situation, I am thinking we could mark 30 days after the massacre and create a healing ritual.

** This equation was originally found from Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., but I do think I have seen it elsewhere as well.

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“You are more powerful than you know;
you 
are beautiful just as you are.”
~ Melissa Etheridge

Reflection Time Selfie

Growing up, I was often referred to as fat or retarded. The insults were absolutely soul crushing; my spirit was a punching bag that was beaten down at home by my own mother and sometimes by the neighborhood kids. For the first third of my life, my self-esteem was quite literally pulverized.

Over the next third of my life, I learned to accept who I was and to trust the journey that I was living.  I made a choice to thrive and to accept where I was standing. I never wanted to look in the mirror, get on a scale, or have my picture taken.  I didn’t really believe in myself, but I learned to reach out of myself and make better choices. I pushed myself academically and physically; I made and kept amazing friends.  During this time, I faced life and death at regular intervals. I absorbed  tremendous loss while also getting a glimpse into the person I was capable of being. I grew up a lot, had two beautiful sons, and started to find my voice.

The last third of my life, to date, has been profound. I have recovered horrid memories, loved and lost, found my voice, and discovered my many hopes and dreams. (A bucket list is being created as I type.) I have embraced change and accepted the woman I am. And at every turn, I have grown to love who I am and to see the many truths that make up who I am today. I have made tremendous mistakes, faced some deep sadness, experienced ecstatic joy and daily contentment.

With each breath, I am becoming the best me that I can be. I have chosen to live life fully, to reach for my dreams, and to honor the beautiful person that I am. Most importantly, I have accepted that I am a work in progress and that is ok.

On most days, I can look at myself in the mirror and I don’t cringe when I see myself in a photograph. And on better days, I may even love a photo with me in it. Dark days are few and far between. My family of choice reminds me that I am loved while my children, my brother, and my sister-in-law treasure me for the person I am. I am loved. And some people even see me as beautiful. As for me, I am mostly content with the person I am in this moment. I love writing, chanting, drumming, and pushing myself to grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Approaching my 50th birthday is profoundly freeing. I am willing to reach for what I want knowing that my best laid plans may evolve as I do the work. In front of me is a door that is wide open and waiting for me to step across the threshold. I am both afraid and excited to be taking this trek. I no longer fear being alone, but I’d welcome true love again. Mostly, I am striving to take care of myself, honor who I am, and to make a difference in the both my community and my world. I want to have a positive impact as a mother, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a writer and an activist.

In preparation for my 50th birthday this coming February, I am choosing to share my journey towards living more fully.  My guess is that I may have moments of stumbling with this format and the process, but in the end I will land on my two feet – I always do.

I feel blessed. Every moment I have lived has helped to create my foundation as a woman and human being. Today there are many doors wide open and paths calling my name. With a full heart,I am embracing journey towards 50 years old and beyond.

In closing, I want to share a prayer written by Alden Solovy that resonated deeply and helped me prepare to openly journal my journey towards 50.

Regarding Old Wounds
Daughter of man,
Son of woman,
Children of compassion and sacred secrets:
Your wounds are deep,
Your losses crushing,
Knife on flesh,
Hammer on bone,
Burning your heart and searing your eyes.
Why do you invite them back
To chastise your days
And torture your nights?
Why do you love these old wounds,
Holding them so dear?

Son of celebration,
Daughter of ecstasy:
Cast off your doubts,
Banish your fears,
Exile the pain of time beyond your reach.
There is beauty in your past,
Wonder in your future,
And holiness in each new moment of life.

Come you children of G-d,
You witnesses of suffering and grace,
Lift your heads from your hands,
Raise your voices in song,
Lift your lives in service,
And rekindle the light of compassion and love.
Then, your lives will become a blessing,
A well of hope,
A river of consolation,
A fountain of peace.

Blessed are You, G-d of forgiveness,
You renew our lives with purpose.

© 2010 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.

Thanks for walking through the door way with me. . . . .the best is yet to come. 🙂

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House of Prayer

Prayer grounds me
Prayer gives me hope
Prayer silences my fears
Prayer reminds me
to dwell in community.

When I walk into MY house of prayer,
I feel safe and supported.
My heart beats and I feel inner peace.
With each breath, my being is made more whole.
Chanting and song lift my spirits, always lift my spirit.
And the spiritual teachings give me a foundation to live or space for deep reflection.

I have always loved my House of Prayer, all Houses of Prayer. And yet tonight, I am losing ground. Nine people were murdered in their church in Charleston, SC. They went to their own House of Prayer perhaps for prayer, a special service, a teaching, or a Bible study. Last fall, four men were killed in their synagogue in Jerusalem.

What can I do about hate? Mental illness? What can we do? What is being done?

gun and bulletsWhat can we do about guns? There is too much power behind those that believe that people have the right to protect themselves. Sure they do, but the cost is high so change MUST happen.

Too many people are dying due to the rampage of those that are capable of such atrocities.  Too many have been killed in school, in churches, at work, in a movie theater, on the streets, and at home. Too many people have been murdered. Seriously, it is time for the gun laws to change. Dammit, it has been time.

I try to bring love, light, and blessings into the world. My entire essence is filled with warmth and goodness. I don’t understand hate or mental illness for that matter. What makes people kill someone’s child, parent, friend, or lover? What makes someone destroy another’s heart and soul? In the aftermath of murder, how do survivors find the strength to move forward and strive for tomorrow?

Most people will find a way to gain their footing again, but those that were forced to face the horrific screams, the pain, and the loss will forever be scarred. And the beautiful souls that reach out as first responders, loved ones , neighbors, and strangers. . . .they will also feel the unimaginable darkness.

May our voices come together and our spirits continue to heal the world. May our actions ultimately make a difference for good.

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Photo courtesy of Ann Cameron Siegal!

Photo courtesy of Ann Cameron Siegal!

All of our deepest truths are paradoxical when we try to express them in ordinary, linear discourse. Quote by Rabbi Jonathan Kligler

Time and again, I am amazed how challenging it is to share the deepest part of my soul or to hear the innermost feelings of others.  For me, to invite people into my world fully means sharing the layers of my being in a way that feels a little overwhelming. I am sure the same can be said for others. Each of us has a past, a skeleton that may be better left alone, but which is still part of our fabric.  We are also our dreams, our hopes, our obsessions, our darkness, and of course our light. At any given moment, we are navigating the world we live in and the world we are striving to live in.

Each and every one of us are human beings with deep thoughts and emotions.

Feelings are so complicated. Putting experiences into words can be daunting.  Life is complicated. And with that reality, simple words don’t always make sense. We use them because they are the tools we have in a world in which communication is essential.  But what does fully connecting look like? How can we intuit what is really being said when words are not enough?

Have you ever noticed how beautiful communicating can be with a lover who understands your intensity without ever needing to hear what you are thinking. They can look in your eyes and feel where you are; touch enables clarity to flow. Words can enhance what is happening, but the kindred energy is so much fuller when you can include the senses. In a different way, the same can be said for close friends and close family. In recent months, I have been blown away by the nature of all healthy relationships and I have been distressed by the connections that once were.

Words are never enough. Communication is made whole by the silence between the notes, the light or darkness in one’s eyes, a touch, or simply trust.

May each of us be blessed to experience relationships where we hear and feel heard.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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If you do not change direction,
you may end up where you are heading.

~Lao Tzu

While I tend to always land on my feet regardless of what is happening in my world. In the last several years I have discovered something very surprising about my personality.  I love continuity! Knowing I have close friends nearby; trusting the love of an old friend; hosting Shabbat meals, holiday celebrations, and gatherings of all sorts with people that love me and know me for who I am.

With that in mind, I am struggling with limbo. I am getting ready to work in an awesome community where I will make new friends and new memories. I’ve never had trouble connecting with people.  For that I am grateful. And yet, in this very moment, I am mourning the loss of connections and the beauty of old friendships. The blessing is that most of the friendships are still with me, just not close enough to touch.

My ‘wandering Jew’ days are not what they once were.

As I sit in my new home in Houston, I realize how empty I am feeling in this moment. I have no real doubt that I will find myfooting and that new friends will bring life into my home or that I will connect with people that one day will love my quirkiness, my sense of humor, and my rhythm, but in this moment I realize that that time is just out of my reach.

I want to be a friend as intensely as I want to be held in friendship. I simply love life and the beautiful connections that emerge.  I also know that without a doubt that my time in Houston will include actively engaging in my passions as both a Jewish Educator and an activist. I will make a difference for good and impact those that I interact with.  It just takes time. . .I have to trust that reality.

For this moment, I am grieving the many losses I have felt and acknowledging the vulnerability that comes with loneliness. I am in a state I never thought I would live in and I have no one to call, no one to reach out to, no one that would come to sit with me if I needed them. OK-this is a good moment to laugh at myself.  Of course I have people, just not any of my besties.

I will never forget the friends that surrounded me a few years ago when I needed to have surgery. At one point, after being taken to my hospital room, I was miserable and physically alone. At that point, my dear friend came into my room and sat with me when I couldn’t stop puking. At one point, I looked up to her beautiful eyes and asked her how she could sit there and wipe me up in all of my disgust.  She just smiled and said she’s a mother. . . .her love simply flowed.  And then there was another friend who took a few days of work to be with me regardless of my mood. I was such a horrid patient, but that friend is still one of my closest friends and the person I can call when darkness looms.

In every city, I have ever lived, I have found beloved friends that fuel my soul and appreciate the person I am. I just have to trust the universe that coming to Houston will be no different.

After last week’s doldrums, I will forever treasure the words that flowed from Stephanie Fink, one of my closest Tucson friends,

“You are tired in many ways as your inner butterfly prepares to emerge from this cocoon.
You will fly free and dance among sunlit blossoms that have been
awaiting the touch of your vibrant wings.”

After only two years of friendship, my friend knows me and loves my spirit! With that I know that I wings are ready to take flight and all will be good. My experiences in Houston will be awesome!

Remember . . . Let It Go Courtesy of Karen Judin

Courtesy of Karen Judin

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Sometimes my body tells me when it is time to stop and to breathe a little more deeply.  If I am wise enough and make the time to listen, the subtle hints will guide me in the ‘right’ direction; if not, a cyclone will take over my body until I do what I should have done in the first place.

Lavender photo

“Field of Lavender” – Courtesy of Carolyn Riker

How do I know this?

My body is recovering from revolting to life’s journeys.  Over the past many months, I have had to navigate upheaval at every turn. Today I am lucky, I am in the midst of landing in Houston where I will begin a new position in a just over three weeks.  In the meantime, I have nesting to do as well as my consulting work with Lev Shalem Institute.

To say that I feel spiritually great feels inadequate.  My entire world is flowing with fortunate blessings, my cup is overflowing. And yet, I am human.  I have been handling too much, I am still struggling financially and trying to be an incredible mother to my growing sons. I am also making some very holy choices for how to live more consciously and nurture my writer’s soul.

The work can feel overwhelming and last week’s move from Virginia to Texas took my last reserve. The trek was physically hard, the food on the road did not agree with me, and the cyclone hit with a vengeance within 18 hours of arriving in Houston.

To say that my digestive system is trashed and I feel like I have been hit by a Mack Truck is only the tip of the iceberg. Or maybe it is the iceberg. . . And I was too weak to call for help and perhaps a little embarrassed that I needed help. I pride myself on being self-reliant and emotionally strong, but I am very much an average person. In fact I wouldn’t have made it this far over the last 18 months without the love and care from my village of beloveds.

Being slammed with this intense pain and dysfunction upon landing may have been just the gift I needed. Of course, that doesn’t mean this is an easy time, it just means that I acknowledging that life is full of gifts even within the challenges. Last  night my symptoms were joined with a fever and a little respiratory frustration, today I am a little better.

With all of this in mind, I know that I don’t have a choice, I have a body to take care of and a mind that needs loving-kindness. So, I am taking time to rest and move gently, write and hydrate.  This is my life.  I am thinking it may be time to listen carefully to all that my body is saying.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – I am wondering if it makes sense to make a create a lavender pillow to help my body and mind rest.  After seeing my friend Carolyn’s Riker’s photo above, I became aware that I need to surround myself with healing thoughts, healthy life choices, and a pillow to lay my head (metaphoric or real).

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