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Posts Tagged ‘drumming’

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 . . . .]

Book-The Colors of Life

“When I don’t have red, I use blue.”
Quote by Pablo Picasso

Making the best out of life is what I aspire to do.  Without question, I strive to find solutions for all life challenges.

Have you ever noticed that what often feels impossible is rarely so? If you are creative and you can find a way to navigate almost any situation.

This is what I refer to as creating the artist within. An artist has to be flexible with every stroke of a brush, with every fiber, and with whatever medium they are using. Rarely does a project or creation work exactly as planned.

When I paint, write, or cook or when I drum, chant, or dance – nothing that I do works as I initially expect it should. Now to be fair, I am a novice in all that I do. But even if I were a master, I think the same thing would be true.

The most important lesson that I have learned first as a teacher and then later as a parent is that the best made plans need flexibility or a willingness to change course.

Learning how to go with the flow has helped me in every way. Mostly I do this with ease, but sometimes I just want things to work as I think they should. Aren’t we all like that?

In my journey toward wholeness, I am striving to trust the universe a little more and to play with life by not having to control each stroke, each rhythm, or each movement.

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 . . . .]

Western Minnesota Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller           Location: Western Minnesota

The only journey is the one within.
Quote by Rainer Maria Rilke

For the last several years, I have been seriously impacted by the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke.  His words touch me deeply and inspire me to reflect inwardly while trusting the insight that will come over time. Rilke’s wisdom seems to be telling me how to walk in the world.  To be fair, most of what I have read has been in his book, Letters to a Young Poet, which can often be found next to me or in my computer case when I travel.  (Note to myself: This year I will take time to read more of his works and perhaps his biography too.)

Within me a storm is constantly blowing. As someone who never stops thinking and feeling the rhythm of the world that surrounds me, I often think or wrestle with what is happening around me.  And as I grapple, I sometimes have trouble silencing my mind so that I may be able to relax or shut down.

In this moment alone, I am thinking about the 150 murdered Kenyan students and their loved ones, the fatal shooting of another African-American teenager, Justus Howell, by a Illinois Police officer on Saturday, how the water crisis in California will affect so many people, the bi-partisan reaction to Iran deal, and how to make chickpeas without leaving too much of a carbon footprint.  And then there is my work, my future work, and my sons to consider.  And finally, I am pondering about my writing – What shape do I want my upcoming blogs to take? Should I take the time to work on my book this week? The bottom-line is that these thoughts have been racing through my brain over the last several hours or maybe the last 10 minutes.

If I am totally transparent, I am also struggling with Facebook conversations. How I personally relate to people who see Israeli politics so much differently than I do? What do I do with the “friend” that referred to those that like Obama as morons. (I did delete his message and wrote him a gentle note back.) How can I make the last days of Passover meaningful? And finally, hoping to remember to send cards to the couple of friends who lost love ones over the last week.

What I am thinking about doesn’t end there. I am also deliberating on how to best make a positive difference for the slaves within the chocolate industry. (That came up during our 2nd night Seder) And I am also wondering whether J Street would be interested in letting me create a cabinet or focus community of educators. And then there is a personal issue tugging at my heart. Sigh.

The beautiful reality of the storms that happen within my head and my heart is that I am consciously intertwined with the world. I find joy in walking outside, spending time with loved ones and friends, and chanting or drumming by myself. With every ounce of my being, I am alive and thriving in the world I live. 🙂

May each of us find peace within the storms of life and within all that fills our minds.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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“We are all here for some special reason.
Stop being a prisoner of your past.
Become the architect of your future.”
R
obin Sharma, Author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Each year during the Jewish month of Elul (usually in August) through Rosh HaShana, we take the time to do a cheshbon hanefesh, an inventory of our soul.  For me that means taking the time to reflect deeply about the gifts and challenges of the last year, but this is also simply a kinetic time of year. As a Jewish professional, I am working to prepare the community for new beginnings which include the High Holy Days, school, and new programming.  As a mother, I am helping my now mostly grown sons begin their next chapters.  And in the midst of all this, I am usually feeling the need to write and look inward.

The holidays themselves are not easy for me because it is challenging to stay in a spiritual space when you are in charge of so many logistics. Yet the moment Tashlich occurs, I realize that I need to take time to go onward and allow for reflection.  Tashlich is a ritual which usually takes place on first day of Rosh Hashanah in the late afternoon.  During this time the participants symbolically cast off their sins by gathering along the banks of a river, stream, or the like and reciting prayers of repentance.  While many people choose to do this ritual in community, I love to do it alone.

And this year, I have decided to create Tashlich moments again and again.  This is a year of letting go, of saying good-bye to what was and embracing the beauty that is. In the last several months, I have been blessed to rethink my career path, my relationships, and much of my life.  None of this is easy, but it has been made easier because of my private journaling, my very public blogging, and some very beautiful friends.  I haven’t been alone and yet I have needed to spend a lot of time alone as a way of giving myself the room to gaze deeply into my soul.

On a good day, the journaling strikes chord after chord, but this doesn’t happen all the time or even most of the time.  More often than not, I am left with a rhythm that isn’t quite working for me.  I am a work in progress. At times the work has been bitter sweet; sometimes it is actually heart wrenching; and once the puzzle pieces come together, it can be beautiful.  Soul-searching is an art form and I am learning with each breath I take.

Writing  is the most profound tool that helps me find center, but that isn’t my only means to finding balance.  My world is full of chanting, drumming and physically moving (sometimes dance and sometimes hiking).  In the midst of all the soul work, my sons keep me grounded and remind me that while I have a lot of work to do, I am actually doing well!  My world is in fact quite amazing; I have all that I need and much of what I want.

As fortunate as I am, there is still work to be done. One way of moving forward is to create Tashlich moments by letting go of all that is holding me back.  Last night, it meant that it was time to get rid of a ton of clutter; I deleted thousands of emails from personal and professional relationships that no longer served me well.  In most cases, it was simply about not needing those particular emails; in other cases it was time to say good-bye to old connections. The delete button became a co-conspirator in propelling to close some doors as a way to open new doors. The goal is to make room for my next chapters and to celebrate what is.

As I woke up this morning, I was acutely aware that there was a shift within me.  The rays of sunlight were slowly warming me up and nudging me toward the many gifts that are very much a part of my life today. I am feeling (perhaps) like a butterfly as it begins to take flight.  Last night, I said good-bye to the cocoon that was binding in a myriad of ways.  With each passing moment, the bindings release and my wings are spreading; there is no turning back for me.

Support for my Tashlich moment when I opened up Facebook this morning to find the photo of  the Topsail Island beach where a group of my close friends are gathering this week.  While I am not with them physically, the photo reminded me that I am not alone.  Once I saw that photo, I realized that outside my front door is the space to create my own Tashlich moment.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Topsail, NC Courtesy of Tamar BenArdout

Topsail, North Carolina – Courtesy of Tamar BenArdout

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“Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.
Quote by: Wendell Berry

(Prologue: I have grown to love life and tire of people wondering if I am for real.  I am. I am human, but I am a thriver. Regardless of what is tossed my way, I will be ok. Always. I have a choice on how to move forward and I choose . . .)

Life happens.

With every breath, I get to decide how I will emerge and how I will face the holy world that I have and will continue to experience.

Struggles have been a part of my life – never by choice. In response, I have made a conscious decision to NEVER allow them to define who I am.  The trouble is that there are some people see my life as really hard and need to focus on just that. I see my life quite differently – full and blessed. The gifts have come in all shapes and sizes. Each passing moment has lead to new adventures – some simply divine, others challenging, and still others painful.  Yet, regardless of what has transpired in my life, I have come to find the treasures that have made me the person I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a work in progress.  I have had days that leave my heart broken with endless tears falling. But those days have been far and few in between.  When I look back at the trials and tribulations that I have endured, I choose to see the beauty that is often a consequence of life’s difficulties.

Life happens.

During some of the segments of my life, I have faced a few too many arduous junctures.  Ultimately, each has led me to find inner peace, phenomenal opportunities, and many open doors.  I am who I am because I have always found light, maybe not instantly, but eventually.

The last few years have had a few challenges. I recovered from the nightmares that plagued me once my son recovered from years of serious illness, I navigated professional challenges that left me jobless, and I treaded life’s waters as a single mother. Regardless, none of it destroyed any part of me. In response, I have found that I have special friends, people that will help me in countless ways. Struggling alone has never happened for me. My amazing friends have nurtured not only me, but my precious sons too.  Whether I needed emotional support, financial help, or a hand, my friends have been there for me.

Through it all, there is a inner joy that sustains me and allows me to thrive.  When I smile, my entire body feels the reverberations; no wonder, I am drawn to feel happy. I want to share my excitement with every one I meet and sometimes I am lucky enough to do so.  I am not certain where I found the inner joy that sustains me even as I navigate tough realities, but I have.  Yay!

Creatively, I am becoming the person I want to be.  My writing soothes my soul and confronts life’s storms.  Over time, I seem to have impacted others with my words. Wow. . . how sweet is that?  And I have also taken up drawing and painting (just a little); I even have a new piece of artwork that I have been creating.  None of this would be what it is if I hadn’t experienced life in the ways I have.

Educationally, I have learned to trust myself as an educator and to push myself to make more of a difference to those that I mentor and teach.  Only once I believed in myself fully was it possible for me to create and then share my creations with others.

And spiritually, I have found my voice.  Whether I am drumming, chanting, praying, or hiking, I find that I am becoming connected with the earth in profound ways.  I have grown to love how I walk within the world.  Sometimes I find myself dancing, and moving in ways that I have never done before.  I am alive, fully alive.

Nothing has ever destroyed my spirit. Even when I have had moments that I felt broken, I emerged stronger with tools that allowed for healing of my heart, my mind, and my soul.

A long time ago, I learned that while the world is sometimes dark, my spirit is full of light.  I always have the ability to choose to see the light and if I am really honoring who I am, I can be the light.

Only when I live in the light will joy exist within me.  So, I guess I need to choose light; there is no option.

Sunset near Pupukea Hawaii; Photo coutesy of  Kathleen Kendle

Sunset near Pupukea Hawaii; Photo coutesy of Kathleen Kendle

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From beginning to end, yesterday was challenging and full of gifts too.  Sigh and yay!!!

The only thing that got me through was drumming and chanting niguunim (melodies).  As my heart was hyperventilating, I took time to release the energy through drumming and chanting.  With each beat of the drum, I released the tension in my soul; with each deep breath followed by my chanting, I felt my sadness leave me.

6730685121_996af44d65

The drum of my dreams. . . .

What affected me the most deeply was the deep sadness that surrounded me at nearly every turn.  So many folks were struggling with real darkness and others were just creating challenges through their actions.  For those that were struggling with their own darkness or perhaps their own demons, I found myself wishing I could share with them this beautiful rendition of Katy Perry’s Roar by Olivia Wise who is currently suffering from brain cancer.  http:/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_An8xNwupo

Olivia’s rendition of Perry’s Roar brought tears to my eyes and deep pain to my heart.  Imagining what Olivia and her family are facing hurts; I can relate and yet I can’t.  After years of the deep pain that accompanied Aryeh’s illness and to the pain that has at times accompanied my life, I couldn’t stop crying.  Life is such a gift and some people can’t find the gifts that are in front them.  Olivia made this video so that those who love her will always hear her ‘Roar”.  How beautiful is that?!?!?!

As I write, Olivia is more unconscious than conscious; her wakeful moments are few and far between.  What her family is telling the world is that Liv woke each day seeking light and finding light too.  While none of us can do that all the time, I wish more folks would go out of their way to find light and make things work with each step.

If I could make a difference for even a moment, I would shatter the illusion that there is no way around pain.

For nearly four years, I watched my son struggle for life and yet I almost never gave in to the darkness.  I always, always, always reached for life and light even as I accepted what could have been inevitable.

With every ounce of my being, I wish that the people around me could find the gifts in the challenges instead of reaching for the darkness and letting that darkness be their guide.

Choose life.

The rhetoric of the anti-abortion world and the teaching of Deuteronomy is perfect for this moment.  While I am far from the anti-abortion world, I do choose life.  Every day, I choose to wake up and find the light within the challenges.  Darkness rarely encompasses my heart and soul.

Choosing life is what I do.

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire

‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar

Louder, louder than a lion

‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.’

Katy Perry’s Roar

My son Aryeh is alive.  How ironic it is that Aryeh’s name means lion.  He is alive. In spite of a fatal diagnosis at times, he has always decided to be a thriver that is very much alive.  We are all alive; each and every one in my family is alive and thriving and yes, even roaring.

Yesterday as I sat in the midst of so much pain, watched some folks make troubling choices, and also experienced little things getting blown out of proportion, I wanted to help others find the light when only darkness seemed to persevere.

There are so many people like Olivia or Aryeh that choose life until no more breaths can be made.  There are so many folks that have chosen to thrive as opposed to bury their head in the sand.  May those folks be our role model.

May we all find our ‘Roar’.

PS – I forgot to mention, I saw some beautiful vibrant life yesterday.  I met people on the street that grapple with life and win.  From a distance, I watched my dear friend and his wife move towards the impending death of their father and father-in-law.  I also watched beautiful young minds embrace their own love of learning.  And finally, I had a delightful evening with my son.

While darkness surrounded me, it wasn’t part of me.  Still, may I and those that are part of my life always remember to ‘Roar’.

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Teaching always jazzes my soul.

Prayer makes my soul sing.

Blending both is pretty close to ecstasy.

Last week, I had the opportunity to navigate the world of prayer in a way I have never before experienced.  I was asked to be a substitute teacher for an amazing adult education class on Basic Judaism.  The subject was in essence about navigating liturgy.

my favorite siddurim

my favorite siddurim,           not my only ones

At first, I was apprehensive! I am so off beat when it comes to my own prayer practice.  I love prayer, but in my own practice incorporates many modalities not found in most of the communities I have lived and worked.  I wanted to share my love of prayer while still helping people develop the foundation or understanding to feel more comfortable within worship services.

With a heavy heart I began thinking about how do I honor the community I work while sharing the excitement for prayer that is intrinsic in my own spiritual practice.  As soon as I started the heavy heart was replaced with my excitement for teaching.  I loved this class; nearly every learner was engaged in some way.  And in the end, I brought my full self into teaching.  In truth, I could have taught for another two or three hours, but that wasn’t in the cards.  🙂

Later, I realized that I hope to one day teach a full liturgy course to engaged adult learners. I want to teach much of what I did with a focus on specific prayers and where they come in the service.  I want to share how I use chanting, drumming, movement, and reflection within my prayer practice.  I want to empower those that want to play with prayer to play.  I want folks to learn that prayer is within their heart, but it can also be found in some phenomenal siddurim (prayer books) too. Growing a strong foundation within prayer comes from knowledge.  Perhaps one day, I will have the opportunity to do just that.  Until then, I will find the prayers within my soul and keep on praying.  The good news is that since the class last week, I have heard from 7 of the students either with questions or with excitement. . . so maybe, just maybe. . . 🙂

Many people have helped guide my spiritual journey.  Beautiful souls that have prayed with their entire  being have guided me with their teachings and with their full heart.  Musicians and singers, cantors and rabbis of all denominations, the CAJE community, the Renewal community, and Reconstructionists have all  inspired me to embrace prayer with my entire being.  My teachers have come from so many different places; it was with these experiences that I stepped into the adult education class last week.

One of my favorite prayers is the Barkhu.  In the Barkhu, the leader calls the kehillah, the community, to prayer.  And one of my favorite versions was adatped by Lev Friedman.

Barkhu,  Dear One, Shekhinah, Holy Name, when I call on the Light of my Soul, I come home.

This call and response Barkhu helps center me and reminds me of the power that is not only around me, but within me.  After I pray using this version of Barkhu, I feel fully ready to become one with prayer and to reach within myself to pray with an open heart.

May we each be called to the prayer of our hearts as we navigate the world around us.

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Last night I drummed. I drummed from my soul.  I drummed hard for over an hour.  With each beat I found myself spiritually at a higher madrega (level).

I love my drum; I love to drum.  When I drum, my entire body and and mind leave all thoughts behind and all comes to peace for just a moment.  When I drum, the universe as we know it ceases to exist.  In that moment of letting go and being at one with my drum, I become a little more whole as a human being.

When I drum, I am a alone, but I am never lonely.  In fact, I seem to feel full of life; every nerve ending feels connected to something outside myself.

Last night, I was blown away at the end of my drumming when I realized that my younger son had kept his door open and the dog was curled up next to my foot which was holding the base of my djembe.  As I stopped playing, both my son Dovi and Maddy, our dog, expressed dissatisfaction that I was done.  My hands were sore because not only did I play with amazing intensity, but I was also breaking in a new head to my drum.  Both creatures  🙂 wanted me to keep on beating my drum.

Drumming rocks my world and keeps my heart beating; drumming keeps me in touch with what’s important.  Drumming puts a smile on my face or allows me to leave reality behind for just a moment.  There is nothing professional about my drumming; I just love doing it.

May each  of us take time to find our rhythm, to find something that allows us the space to let go, to be free.

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