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“If you can see your path laid out in front of you
step by step,
you know it’s not your path.
Your own path you make with every step you take.
That’s why it’s your path.”
~Joseph Campbell

Choosing the life I want is no longer an option. If I want my spirit to thrive, I have to create the moving parts that will ultimately nourish my soul.

There is nothing self indulgent about navigating the world with open heart, mind, and spirit. In fact, my entire being has not only the right, but the responsibility to show up fully in my own life.

pathway-after-monsoon-john-judin-june-2016Over the last several days, I have been blown away by the messages that keep showing up while reminding me that I need to do the same thing.

  • Elle Luna’s book, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your  and amazing podcasts inspired by her book.
  • SARK’s teachings – Specifically this month, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy mentoring focused on giving her students tools so they could begin Making More Alive Choices.
  • Watching how “This Is Me” unfolded and ultimately touched so many lives in “The Greatest Showman”. As I viewed this scene, tears rolled down my face as I processed my own journey towards finding inner courage and bravery to stand strong as the woman I am. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLFEvHWD_NE

As someone who has been battered and bruised, I literally lost it when I heard Keala Settle sing:

I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

As a THRIVER, no one would want to see the darkness that I have seen. I am blessed because today I have emerged into the beautiful and strong woman than I am. This comes with tremendous responsibility for me to show up and to do the dance of life in the most authentic way that I can.

Hineini, Here I am!

Life is calling to me in ways that it has never lived before. I am learning, stretching, and evolving on a daily basis. I am literally reaching in directions that I have never seen before.

In less than two months alone, I have started taking care of myself in new ways. I no longer eat sugar nor most flour. I walk five miles daily, journal regularly, and am working on a book. I am also working for an amazing community and I have started to see new ways for me to  bring my love of life to my community. I am learning/ I am stretching; I am growing!

Even before the last two months, I have found myself over the last several years growing my creative spirit by surrounding myself with beauty and order, connecting with artists, dreamers, and  philosophers, and developing enduring spiritual and creative practices.

Each step has lead me to find balance and grounding on some profound new surfaces. If you had asked me a decade ago or even six months ago, where I would be today, I wouldn’t have had a clue because I don’t think I understood the infinite possibilites. Today, I am allow the opportunities to guide me as I walk.

I am alive; I am thriving; and I have made it to this time!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

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Writing
the song of my heart;
the meaning of my mind;
the feeling of my soul;
Is what makes me WHOLE.

In the last few weeks, my writing has gotten me more in touch with a new internal rhythm. I have found myself filling my schedule with solitude. I am craving quiet in a way that I have never done before.

An old fashioned planner is starting to take shape and allowing me to become more accountable not only to my solitude, but also my work and my health journey. Very consciously, I am making choices on how to navigate time. As serendipity would have it, I I found this amazing quote presumably by Henry David Thoreau as I was beginning to write this blog entry.

‘Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it,
the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things around you,
it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.”

black butterflyI am being drawn to actively engage in life through choosing a more conscious way of moving forward with my daily life.

Why now? AND How will it look?

Health Journey – I want to be the healthiest I can be. So, I have made some AMAZING changes in my life over the last couple of months.

  • Diet – I am eating:
    • three healthy meals a day.
    • no added sweeteners in my diet. The exception is that I do drink alcohol occasionally.
    • almost no animal products.
    • or drinking lots of water and no sodas!!!!
    • mostly whole foods.
  • Movement – I am seeing myself as someone who can live life actively.
    • Each day I am walking 10,000 steps in the morning and I am also taking walks in the evening.
    • Next summer, I hope to take four to six weeks and bike along the west coast. The plan is to drive to British Columbia and then travel south towards Northern California and beyond as possible. Taking each day to explore the world via my bike. I have yet to map out the trip, explore the financial feasibility of making this happen, or to purchase the bike I will train on. BUT I have decided that I will make some version of this trip happen; I am so excited!
    • In the fall, I will purchase a new or used bike and start my training including how to make simple bike repairs. Wondering if anyone in Houston is up for teaching me. 🙂
    • Even this past weekend, my oldest son and I took a trip to Austin and basically walked and walked some more. We had high hopes of going to some artsy areas, but found ourselves drawn to simply taking in the downtown area.
  • Overall Health Exploration – Simply doing what I have to do.
    • At this point, I have lost about 25 lbs since June. While I seem to have temporarily plateaued, I am simply continuing to make more right choices daily. The weight and my health will continue in a fabulous direction as I continue my health journey.
    • Recently went for a physical and found out that I no longer pre-diabetic for the first time in decades. Now I am working on lowering my cholesterol through exercise and eating better.
    • Just had my vision checked, purchased a new prescription for my glasses, and new glasses. The best part about this vision journey is that I can now see.
    • Recently saw my orthopedic surgeon as follow-up because my back has been hurting.
    • Will have my annual mammogram and bone density scan next week. It was scheduled for last week, but the office called to let me know that the air conditioner was not working. If this had been six months ago, I would have yet to reschedule.
    • Waiting for the results for my brca test to see if I have the genes that will up my chances in having breast or ovarian cancer.
    • Still need to schedule my colonoscopy. . .this seems to be the one appointment I have yet to make. I’ve called, but for some reason, I do not have an appointment yet. I will make that happen before the end of the day.
    • Finally, I need to see the dentist. It’s time. . .it has been far too long.
  • Sleep – I am trying to allow myself more time to sleep. So far, I am not as successful as I’d like to be. And yet, I am going to take a nap in a few minutes.
  • Spiritual Journey
    • Taking time to explore SARK via her books and a facebook group.
    • Listening to podcasts by people that make my heart sing.
    • Allowing for more time to chant and pray daily
    • Looking forward to my Elul journey as I prepare for Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.
    • Studying Torah each week and helping a friend write her D’var Torah or sermon for her upcoming anniversary of her Bat Mitzvah.
  • Creative Journey – Let me count the ways :). . .
    • Writing daily
      • journaling
      • working on my book (and deciding if it needs to be two)
    • Creating Vision Boards – I even lead a vision board workshop a little over a week ago and can’t wait to lead another one.
    • Doodling
    • Trying to do some watercolor
    • Being inspired  by AWESOME podcasts and books

All of this and more is leading me to make different decisions in how I navigate life. I have decided to allow for the quiet by engaging in far less chatter. So for now, I will not take as much time connecting with friends, social media, and the news.

For the next nearly 60 days until after all the fall Jewish holidays are over, I will focus inward. I will do whatever it takes to love my body, my mind, and definitely my soul. I will use this time to dig deeper and explore through my journaling and doodling what it is I want and need to live a more holy and grounded life.

Most of my life has been filled with what I think I should do and less about what my spirit needs to thrive. I am at a fabulous crossroads right now; this is the perfect time for me to go inward and make some decisions about how I am going to best nourish my life and reach for all that I want. (Note: Inspired by Elle Luna’s book, The Crossroads of Should and Must.)

Reality check

Tikkun Olam – Repairing the World

While I’d love to go completely inward, there is a lot going on in the world that needs my attention.

  • We have less than 100 days to get elected officials that will speak more for human beings and for love of our world.
  • We also have children and parents that need need be reunited.
  • Accountability needs to happen both in the United States and Israel.

This is not the time for me to shut down completely.

#The100DayProject – I will be starting this project in just less than a week; I am still exploring my options, but I have a few GREAT ideas.

Will you join me? Starting Sunday, August 12/1 Elul through Tuesday, November 20/12 Kislev would love to play with others in generally a solitary activity. “Basically, if you can dream it, you can do it. The only premise? Participants have to do the same action every day for 100 days, and they have to document every instance of 100. Sounds totally cool, right?” For more information check out this link, #The100DayProject.

For the first time in years, I am excited (and really nervous) about the possibilities that are surrounding me. The last several years have been really full, but today I am blessed with the ability to go mostly inward with a goal of living authentically in every way.

Onward with love, light, & 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 Egypt to the Promised Land or from Slavery to Freedom. On many of these days, I will share my reflections via my blog.

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.

~ ~ ~

The days leading up to Passover are often crazy with anticipation, angst, and joy. I love Passover; this year was no different. The most exciting thing about this year is that although I felt all the angst of what needed to get done, I also felt ready. I didn’t feel the sense of overwhelm that comes with having 15 – 22 people per  seder (Passover meal). And this year seemed to be the year for health challenges to keep taking our guests. Still it doesn’t matter if I am prepping for five people or 20 people, prepping for Passover takes work.

As the holiday was approaching, I was ecstatic. . .I was in great shape. Except that I forgot one very important step. I didn’t go inward. I didn’t take the time to reflect on how Passover usually inspires me on my own growth journey. Instead, I focused on prepping my house for company and the upcoming seders.

On Thursday, all of that changed when I slipped and landed on my tailbone as a tabletop fell on my head/neck. While I felt really sore I was amazed that even this didn’t upset me too much. I was functioning at a slower rate – yes. But, I was in good shape with what I had accomplished prior to the accident and I was blessed with a couple of extra hands to help in the final day’s preparation. So I went inward, just a little bit. I allowed myself some extra time to breathe and move a little more slowly. In truth, I had no choice.

Now let’s jump ahead to the end of the seders. While I LOVED our first seder and thought our second seder was good too, I was totally wiped after the second seder and it showed. So my company told me to go to bed and they cleaned up along with my sons. Yay.

Omer - Day 2 - water

L’Chayyim – To Life!!!

At about 2 PM, I woke up and found myself in awe of where I was. For about 30 minutes, I sat up in bed and drank a lot of water and realized that I didn’t have a plan for how I was going to take my Omer Journey this year.  For me, the journey is about ridding myself of the toxins in my life and consciously deciding to move forward in a very real way.

(Note: I had signed up for a Counting the Omer to Fitness with with Rabbi Howard Cohen. So while I wasn’t 100 % reflective, I did have a fleeting thought about the journey.)

As I sat there, I was happy to be drinking my water. Isn’t drinking water part of the cleansing process? In general, I know that if I am taking the time to drink lots of plain water, I am doing some good self-care. At that moment, I was proud of myself. And then it hit me, I needed to come up with a plan for flushing some of the toxins and/or schmutz out of my life.

Within an hour of that time, I was totally releasing the toxins. In fact, for the next 15 plus hours, I was hanging out with my old friend the porcelain goddess or sometimes it was a simple trash basket. Let’s just say, I had plenty of time to release the toxins and to feel sorry for myself too.

Early in my stomach bug, I was blown away by the timing of it!! Didn’t I just say that I needed to release the toxins from my body, my mind, and my soul? As the hours wore on, I was acutely aware that my journey had begun. I had no choice, but to listen.

Approximately thirty hours since the release began, I am feeling myself on a de-cluttering mission. I want to rid my yard of unwanted weeds, overgrowth, and weight. I want to clear my closet and home of things I don’t need. I want to take time to reflect on how to make some of my friendships healthier and more vibrant than they have previously been. Finally, I want to keep what is good and let go of that which doesn’t work any longer.

And let’s not forget the Thursday’s klutzy moment, I want to move a little more slowly and breathe a little more deeply. Accidents often happen because we are trying to do too much and to do it too quickly.

The Counting of the Omer is the perfect time to go inward and do a little self-care. Leaving Egypt so that I can ultimately find the Promise Land will take some work. Basically, I get to embrace the good parts of my life by better taking care of me and releasing that which doesn’t serve me.

L’Chayyim, To Life – Time to drink a lot more water. 🙂

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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Waking up
I breathe deeply to check in with my soul.
Am I alive? I mean, am I REALLY alive?
Can I move my body? Am I ready to do my ‘Dance of Emergence’?
Is my spirit ready for the day? Will today be a day for soaring, simply navigating, or crashing?

I love fully – always too fully.
Listening to the rhythm of the earth and all her inhabitants impacts me deeply
Chaos reigns
Values don’t make sense
The struggle to navigate makes breathing hard.
But then the angels appear. . .the angels always appear.

The world is challenging for someone who walks like me.
And yet,
every day I open my arms wide
reaching for the world I love
I say
Hineini
I am here to serve.

This is my journey in life.

When I give my smile or share my spirit, it is real. And when I feel grounded and safe in that connection I want it to last forever. Only it rarely does.

Over the years, I have learned that I am too intense for the world I live.  But instead of hiding behind what my gut feels, I honor myself by adhering to the words of Emile Zola, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: “I am here to live out loud.”

This means that I show up to connect with friends, for meetings, political gatherings, or even the March For Our Lives as I did today. I show up even when I’d rather be in a quieter place. I also choose when I allow for the quiet, when I go into my own space so that I can create, daydream, or simply nurture my spirit.

Chava from behind with kippahFinding balance takes work. I say and do the things that jazz my soul, but also have the possibility of making a difference. I do this as a Jewish educator, a woman, an activist, a friend, a mother, a writer, and a  human being.

Living in the universe as I do means that I climb a lot of mountains only to stumble to keep my footing.  It also means that there are times I reach great heights and soar when I least expect it. The many moving parts of the world are relentless.

I pray with my feet as often as I can, never hiding who I am or what I believe.  At the same time, I am a seeker who chants, drums, meditates, and dreams. I am also an introvert that most people believe is an extrovert.

Actively living in the world and spending so much time navigating my work, my passions, my loved ones, and life has taken its toll. While I will keep my arms and heart open wide, I also struggle to find, to build, and to maintain sweet connections with those that consciously walk in the world. This has become a non-negotiable over the last several years.

I wasn’t always this way. In fact, I am not sure when it changed.

While I have always walked as I loved our world with all of the gifts and challenges that it brings, I used to care with a bit more detachment. And then about 20 years ago, something inside of me changed. I am not sure of the particular event or a triggered memory. But suddenly I couldn’t turn off my feelings with ease.  I wanted to learn more, do more, be more. Slowly I came to understand that I may never learn enough, do enough, be enough.

As a little girl, my mother truly believed I was limited. And as I grew, I believed that too. I hid behind good grades and a passion for learning, but I wasn’t able to absorb what was happening like other kids. I wasn’t articulate or good in math. I couldn’t remember the finer details of anything.  Over time, I learned to do the best I could do, but I wanted to do so much more. I wanted the capacity to synthesize all that I was learning into action and sharing for good.  I wanted to make a difference with my wisdom; I wanted to touch the world in huge ways.

Life took over. I learned to do what I could do. When something needed to be done, I did it. I always did what was asked of me. In my family, in my work, and in my community, I was the solid one. If you needed anything, I would show up and take care of things – and always with a smile.

Eventually, I started looking past the village that I was living. Ouch. Slowly, I dipped my toe into the larger world, the world outside myself. First, a homeless, pregnant woman with a toddler came to live with my family for nearly six months. That was the beginning of me realizing that there was so much to do. The more I learned, the more I realized that I just couldn’t do enough. EVERYTHING was calling to me – the environment, homelessness, the need to protect those that couldn’t protect themselves, and then the policies of Israel became more than I could bare to see/hear/read. Human rights, the environment, politics – everything mattered. Only I couldn’t do enough to make the world a better place. I still can’t. So I take one step and then another – knowing it is all a little too inadequate. But still, it is my job do what I can.

The last few years have been a time for learning and accepting the realities of not only my life, but the world I live. I’ve struggled to come to grips with how I walk in the world. I am blessed to be able to open my arms and do just a little for the family, community, and world that I love. I know that my smile and my warmth makes a difference – sometimes. But I also know that deep inside, I know that I am not done yet, I have more to do! I am not enough because I am not able to keep up with the world I live as I’d like. I am limited. With so much to absorb, I can’t make sense of it all.

  • How can we create a world with racial and economic equality?
  • How can the countries I love care so poorly for all of their inhabitants?
  • What can we learn from science to make our environment safer for all? Why does big business and the government continue to literally destroy the fabric or our world?
  • Guns – WTF should be done? AND what truths make sense? 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida; more are still struggling with their lives. People of color are at a disproportionately greater risk for violence – always.
  • How can our government have so many people that believe that hatred and white supremacy should be a guiding message?
  • Wasn’t our country made with immigrants? YET, all over the country, beautiful people are forced to rally and chant, “No Hate! No Fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”
  • We are so far away from taking care of the world we live in. Homelessness, veterans, domestic violence, animal cruelty, and ___________ – You fill in the blank. How can we do what we need to do in order to improve the world for our people?
  • . . . .and so much more.

With so much that needs to be done, I am not where I want to be, but the message I am hearing in my head is clear.  While I may not feel like I am enough, I am doing a little bit every day. AND on a good day, I do a lot more. Continuing the holy work of rolling up my sleeves is no option; there is still too much to do.  I may not feel like I am enough, but that doesn’t mean that I should stop doing what I am doing. And yes, I do realize that it is time for me to reframe my inner critic; I know I have some work to do.

MeFueling my spirit, I will continue on this journey. I will do what I can and eventually as I keep taking one step and then another, I will believe that I am enough.

My work, my writing, my beautiful nonprofit, and my warmth need to be my focus. So I will continue to do what I do best, wake up every morning with my arms and heart wide open. I show up. I am here. Hineini.

With love, light, hope, and blessings,
Chava

(Note: This rambling piece is following the amazing March For Our Lives which inspired me in every way, but also left me in a pool of tears. I wish their wasn’t still so much to do and yet, there are so many angels stepping up to do the work.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 9

“I always wanted to be someone better the next day
than I was the day before.”
~Sidney Poitier

There are days when I look at myself and I see someone who is terribly flawed. How could I not? I am not half the person I want to be. I’ve yet to write the book that would positively impact the lives of others or tell my stories.  I am not doing enough to make this world a better place. I haven’t given my children enough practical guidance towards navigating their adulthood. My nonprofit organization is nothing but a dream and un-tethered 501(c)3. I am one of the least articulate people I know. And finally, I am an overweight woman that has not done enough to care for myself.

While there are days when I absolutely see myself in these ways, but that is changing. I am slowly seeing myself much differently; I am hearing a very different voice inside my head.

I am blessed to see myself as someone who constantly stretches my spirit and strives to find the AWEsomeness in life.  My warmth radiates into the hearts of so many people that know me. My blog has a way of touching people deeply and is slowly growing in skill and with followers. Aryeh and Dovi, my sons, are deeply connected to me and value family more than words can say. In spite of the near deafness as a child and needing nearly nine years of speech therapy so that I could learn to articulate myself, I can tell stories, give lectures, and connect to a small class or a large audience. Health-wise, I have been on a health journey that has allowed me to lose and keep off a lot of weight over the years.  In June, I started what I hope will be my last segment of my weight-part of my journey – I have taken off 30 lbs to date as well as moving more both physically and spiritually.

There is not only one way to look at my health journey.  Every step I take is leading me to a spiritually grounded foundation.  As I inch towards 50 years old, I am beginning to realize that I EXACTLY where I need to be – landing, stretching, evolving. I am growing into a better me!

Life is a journey that I am actively living.

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