Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘desert’

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

 

Read Full Post »

Catalina Mountains remind me to keep climbing. :)

Catalina Mountains remind me to keep climbing. 🙂

Regardless of how life is
I find the light and focus on the good.
Light is full of shades from bright to darkness.

When the world is crumbling
Crumbling pieces are like remnants of cake.
Each morsel tasted and the sweetness digested

Breathing in light
Breathing out the darkness
Eventually after enough breaths, finding balance with each inhalation.

Thank God for new days
Bad days really do end
And new days emerge with beauty.

At the moment, I am keeping perspective while navigating the darkness that has been plaguing my life for way too long. Thankfully there are flowers that bloom constantly in the desert, a moon that illuminates even the darkest skies, and sunrises that revitalize the mountains while warming my heart and soul.

Read Full Post »

Living life actively is what I do, but at the same time I have always tended to play it safe within certain parameters.  At least I did until my job situation changed and I had no choice; I had to face my deepest fears.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.  ~Jim Morrison

On December 16 of this past year, I was called into my executive director’s office at work.  My job had been cut to half-time. The congregation I was working with lost members and our school lost students.  Initially, I was stunned, never had I heard of a Jewish Educator going to half-time mid-year.

Instead of licking my wounds, I started really thinking about what I wanted with my life. Did I want to remain in Jewish Education? Did I want to stay in Tucson or move closer to the water? Could I find a way to focus on ways to grow while also sustaining myself financially.  There was and still is so much to consider.  The questions I was asking myself were endless.

What I had initially decided is that I wasn’t ready to push myself hard to find the ‘right’ position, I needed some time to breathe deeply and consider what I really wanted to do.  And the good news is that while I now had no health insurance, I did have a half-time salary.  Even with everything being strained financially, I was willing to take the time to seek the best working environment for me by deciding what I needed to best thrive in a new work environment.

As the days of my new work situation turned into weeks, and then months, I have been allowing myself the quiet time to figure out what would be next.  I interviewed for new positions and learned how to live with less; I grew angry for what I was enduring and I let the anger go.  I allowed myself to take this journey with few preconceived notions.  I wasn’t sure how I would emerge from where I was; I am still not sure how I will emerge, but I will.

There was and still is a thrill in learning how to live with less and accepting help.  From the beginning, I thought about my needs and wants, my space and how I craved simplicity.  And then my son Aryeh found a job and helped financially.  And then a friend gave me a job as a care-giver for the agency she worked; this allowed me to supplement my income.  When my car broke down, a friend lend me part of the money to fix it and when I was short the rent money one month, it showed up as a gift.  I am still reflecting and learning how to deal with where I am today.

Torrey Pines State Reserve Photo courtesy of David Davidson

Photo courtesy of David Davidson: Torrey Pines State Reserve

The Journey continues. . . .

And then in April or May I learned that the congregation that moved me from Washington, DC to Tucson two years ago could no longer afford me.  Effective June 1st, I was no longer employed as a Jewish Educator.  I had no guaranteed income and I had lost my community.

While I was aware that I could lose my position, I was also hopeful that I could continue working part time as the Youth Education Director.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, the congregation said that they couldn’t afford my salary.  The new reality made it time to figure out the next chapter and quick (or maybe not so quick).

Moving forward is not optional.  Choosing to find light in the dark moments propels me to soar.  Allowing myself time to ask some important questions as I make this new reality work is scary, but feels wise too. With each day, I choose to celebrate the blessings that always surround me. My friends, far and near, have never wavered in their support; the desert mountains and the magnificent skies nurture my spirit even though I miss the ocean.

And in this moment, I am blessed to be working as a care-giver with some amazing people and earlier this week a friend gave me a short-term  freelance job within Jewish education. I seem to be staying afloat for the most part.

Reality 

From the moment I was given my walking papers from the temple, I was forced to look at my deepest fears directly.  As a result, I have always been terrified of not having the money I need to sustain my family with even their most basic needs.  Growing up without healthy food or the clothing appropriate for a girl in the suburbs was hard.   And for the first time in my adult life, I know that I there are times when I may not afford  rent, utilities, or basic necessities.  If something goes wrong, I will not have what I need to make things work.  And yet, I am blessed with friends and a belief that all will ultimately be good.

As a young teenager, my family  didn’t have enough food and the fear of foreclosure was constantly looming. Potential homelessness was a possibility then and now it is again.  And while it would be easier if I lived on the east coast because we do have friends there that would shelter us, my guess is that I have friends in Tucson too.  The beauty of where I am today is that I am beginning to heal from the experiences of my youth; I also realize that I have more tools now.  I understand what it means to thrift shop, borrow, and cook from scratch.  As a child, I really didn’t have the tools to help myself.  And today, I have something I never had before, I have friends and loved ones that are there for me and I am able to find the gifts within the challenges.

I am no stranger to financial struggles, as a Jewish professional (not clergy), I have always just made it financially. And when my children suffered health crises, we sometimes didn’t know how we would afford even their most basic needs. Yet, in the end, all of our needs and many of our wants have always been met often with the help of friends.  For me, darkness always turns into light.

What’s next?

I want to live consciously in all areas of my life.  Being authentic matters whether it is with people, my environment, or the larger world.  My words and my actions should support my beliefs and my spirit.

My foundation is what it is because of the role Judaism has had in my life.  The teachings have given me the wisdom to grow and the room to wrestle. Doors have opened to me because of my many interactions with the social actions of my previous communities.  When one door opens, I often find many other doors ajar.  Some I will go through; some I will not. I am who I am because I listened to the values of my faith and used it as a springboard to move me through life and learning from others.

So now, I have to figure out how to have a career that either nurtures who I am and/or allows me the time to make a positive impact within the world I live.  My hope is that I can do both. I love people and working with people; I also love the idea of working behind the scenes to get things done.  Even though, I have only really worked within the Jewish community, it doesn’t mean that I have to stay there. I have learned so many skills that can take me wherever I go.  I really am looking forward to the next chapter and hoping that it allows me the room to be creative either on or off the job.

My purchases should be mindful of the people and the physical planet I live; my interactions with family, friends, and others should always be sweet and caring.  Living in the world means I have a responsibility for walking gently and lovingly with each step and with each word.  Everything I do matters.

Today, I am considering ways to ignite my non-profit organization, find or create a meaningful work environment, taking time to write, and living into the answers of my many questions.  Today I am fully embracing life.

Each step in this 8 month journey has been scary. Yet it is also exciting to explore what is now meaningful to me and how I will afford my needs for now and into the future.  I don’t have all the answers, but I know that I am trusting the universe and doing what I need to do to move forward.

May today and every day lead us beyond our fears and towards freedom.

Read Full Post »

Ann Cameron Siegal Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows                                                  Photo Courtesy of Ann Cameron Siegal

So many paths are guiding me to new horizons.
As one chapter ends, it is leading to many new chapter beginnings.

A part of me broke as my move to Tucson came to be.
I lost a part of my heart; I lost a part of my soul.
And with each passing day another piece of me chipped away and is still at times peeling.
My spirit lost one friend, then another, and looking back. . . .
I lost the only home I ever knew.

Tucson was a chance, a chance to grow, to evolve, and to find a new home.
Instead for a time, it was the place that I became lost.
Friends were gone; community no longer existed except via Twitter, Facebook, and phone.
For a time my sons and I had only each other.

With each loss, I found the strength to keep moving, even with the gaping hole in my heart.
I began reminding myself to breathe deeply, as deeply as I could.
And I believed that one day I would be OK.
In truth just being Ok has never been enough; what I really have always needed was to thrive.

I am ultimately stronger now than I was when I first arrived in Tucson.
There are moments when my life feels overwhelming, when drama takes hold.
But more moments fill me with blessings as I honor the human being I am becoming.
So many dichotomies, so much adversity, and yet. . .
I breathe in devastation and I breathe out wholeness.

I am becoming whole, always building and rebuilding my foundation, my yesod.
The Tucson mountains remind me to reach higher,
The desert provides warmth for my soul.
The monsoons wash away the losses and devastation as the storms lull my pain to sleep.

Being in Tucson has given me the opportunity to explore where I really want to be and who I want to be. When I came to Tucson, I believed in possibilities. Two years since arriving and I am now believing in different possibilities. My job is gone, some of my friends are gone, and new connections have emerged.

The journey. . . .
Today I am looking deeply inside my soul.
What do I want for my life, my family?
Where do I want to be?
What do I want to keep with me?
Who nurtures my life? Who needs more boundaries?
How much solitude do I crave?
What do I need to do to be heathy?
Do I have what it takes to create the next chapter of my life?

The world is full of open doors.
Now is my chance to choose which doors to go through.
Only after going through new doors will I soar to new heights.

Going
Moving
Leaping
Flying
Soaring . . . .

Read Full Post »

Middah (character trait) focus: Persistence

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

 

Courtesy of Shay Seaborne

Courtesy of Shay Seaborne

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean 

What I have learned is that if you want to accomplish anything in the world you have to do the work.   Only though taking one step at a time will you learn how to make things happen or how to navigate the waters so that you can get to where you want to go.

In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to develop a few practices that now guide my life.

  • Writing – Only through writing and reading do I grow my writing in skill and intensity. Since writing really jazzes my soul, I have to do the work to be a good writer.
  • Chanting –   For me, chanting is a way to go deep inside myself and to work on how I see the world and walk through life.  The deeper I allow my chanting practice to go, the more  my spirit seems to evolve to a healthier place.
  • Healthy Living – I love eating healthy foods, going to the chiropractor regularly, and biking/hiking in the desert.  The challenge for me is that this is a practice I’ve yet to find a momentum for. So, this is my work.  Once I set my mind to the holy work of taking care of my entire being only then will I be healthier.  The good news is that I do have a practice and I will continue to take small steps over time.

Only persistence will get me where I want to go.  Is there a practice that you would like to grow? If yes,what are you doing to invest in your journey?

 

Read Full Post »

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

Middah (character trait) focus: Perseverance

Life happens.

Each and every day we wake up and we get to decide how we can walk through the world.  For me, regardless of what is happening in my world, I am someone who chooses to move through life with a smile on my face and a positive disposition.  While I am far from perfect, being grumpy just doesn’t work for me.

As part of the living, each of us experience trials and tribulations, gifts and challenges, joy and heartache.  When we push through the tough stuff, we open ourselves to the possibility of making it through what is and maybe even finding sparks of light along the way.

Living in the desert has opened up my mind to how perseverance can appear; one such example is a cactus that rarely receives water, yet still has the ability to flower.

Cactus Flower

May each of us find the tools that allow us to perservere when we are faced with adversity in whatever form it takes.

With love and light . . . . Chava

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

מַה־נּוֹרָא הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה – How Awesome is THIS Place (Genesis 28:17)

With each breath, I am acutely aware of the beauty the surrounds me at any given moment.  While life is often a struggle, it is just as often full of beauty if I remember to open my eyes and take note.

I am blessed to live in a desert that truly comes alive at all times of day and night.  The wind blows, the coyotes howl, the surrounding skies keep my heart racing with anticipation.  The colors and the textures warm my being and remind me to breathe deeply.  While I miss the changing seasons, the oceans, and the falling leaves – I never tire of waking up to the surrounding mountains or vivid skies.

LateFallCatalinaMtns

Catalina Mountains (near Tuscon, Arizona)       Late November, 2013

Today as I sit reflecting on the rather intense changes my life has taken in recent years,  I am also taking notice that I have found profound gifts at every turn. Wherever I step, I experience a sense of awe.  New friends have replaced those that have left; my children are growing into both loving and wise men; writing and chanting continually jazz my soul; healthy living keeps me alive and thriving.  I am blessed.

How truly awesome is this place.

May we find light within each step as our journey continues.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »