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Posts Tagged ‘Elul’

Note:
Life is hard. On a good day, we navigate with ease. On a bad day, we tread water and hope we can stay afloat. On most days, most of us have moments where the pendulum swings throughout the day.

What I am writing about below is where I have been over the last weeks. I am writing with transparency knowing that this will make some people feel uncomfortable, but the good news is that I make through challenging times by remembering that I have a tribe that is holding me.

If you are part of my tribe, thank you for being there.

May we all find our tribe.

~ ~ ~

When you’re down and trouble
And you need some love and care
A
nd nothing, nothing is going right
C
lose your eyes and think of me
A
nd soon I will be there
T
o brighten up even your darkest night.

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

Songwriter: Carole King

I have been blessed with a tribe that holds my spirit and reminds me that I am loved. All I have to do is let them know that I am in a dark place, and they show up.

The last weeks have been painful for me. In fact, I have been feeling crushed and struggling to breathe. All I have wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry. And yet, while I have had some really dark hours, I have been doing what I do. I have been taking one step and then another, and still another. I am not out of the woods yet, but I am doing what I need to do as I slowly emerge.

Day 55 - Tears Can Cleanse your heart and spiritI have cried. I have journaled. I have cried some more. I have sat in silence. I have stared at my computer screen only to get nothing done. I have painted my little cards with the wisdom I needed or sad truths. I have written some really hard pieces that can only be written when I am in significant pain. Did I say I have cried?

Last weekend, I wrote one of my closest friends and told her I couldn’t make her daughter’s wedding because I wasn’t able to get my shit together. I was honest. And then this past week, I blew the shofar at a climate change rally and spoke about how the shofar was a call to wake up; we need climate action now. Just showing up helped me get out of my own way for just a little while. I still went to sleep with tears in my eyes and a hole in my heart. But on that night, I slept really well for the first time in a while.

BTW, this is the first year in decades that I haven’t blown the shofar or rams horn nearly every day during the month of Elul, the month before Rosh HaShanah.  In Jewish tradition, we blow the shofar as one of the tools for inspiring us to to wake up and do the spiritual work of stretching and growing so that we are ready for the new year.

Instead of blowing the shofar, I have been allowing myself to be exactly where I am.

AND

My tribe is showing up.

One by one, my friends are reaching out and reminding me that they are holding space for me. The most impressive is my friend whose daughter is getting married. She offered to come to me anytime. I can’t ask, but I love that she means it. I wouldn’t be good company and I don’t know how to be taken care of when I want to bury my head in the sand. Another friend of mine who is busy beyond words offered to drive an hour both ways just so she could give me a hug. A couple of others called, some offered to listen, and others opened their homes to me whenever I am up for a visit. Living in Houston is hard because most of my loved ones live elsewhere.

And then a couple of nights ago, I asked my friends who live by the water if I could run away to their house even if I am dark. Of course, they said yes and then they called other friends who live close to them and texted me that everyone wanted to see me. And what I heard in that text is that they will welcome me however I show up. Unfortunately, I need to wait until after the Jewish holidays, but I think healing will happen by the water.

Over the last couple of days, I have started answering the phone or responding to text messages. Mostly, I am still hiding, but a little less than I was. I haven’t wanted to talk to many people, so I haven’t. But I have decided to be real a couple of times on social media and within my blogging. I have cried at work and felt loved even if I felt unlovable. I am being transparent. I am “living out loud” as Émile Zola would say.

The truth is that why I am sad doesn’t really matter. There are a lot of reasons and I think I have only shared all of them with one of my friends who called at the ‘right’ moment. I wonder if I chewed his ear off. Since he has kept reaching out this week, I don’t think I scared him away. I am really blessed And the beautiful reality is that I know that most of my friends would do what this one friend did for me.

I’ve also been blown away by the love texts, the sweet private messages, and even a couple of notes. I am allowing my friends to see that I am living in the messy middle. And instead of ignoring me, they are quietly showing up and letting me know that I am loved.

~ ~ ~

Growing up, I used to hear that we make plans and God laughs. #Truth

Last Saturday, a friend, who is also a congregant, called my cell phone. When I saw his name on my caller ID I decided to pick up the phone. I, incorrectly assumed something must be wrong because he generally doesn’t call me out of the blue. Looking back though, I realized that this friend always calls me out of the blue and it is ALWAYS a welcome surprise.  Fast forward, I am not sure how he started the phone conversation, but he quickly said, “I’d love to do karaoke with you. Let me get with my wife and let’s just do it.” This was in response to me saying on a silly Facebook questionnaire that I have wanted to do karaoke since my 50th birthday nearly four years ago. LOL! And then this friend made the serious mistake of asking me how I was. Ugh! And with that I could barely hold it together, so I started to cry. Damn!

Guess what I am doing to do tonight.  Karaoke. Of course, he and his wife meant it when they said that they would arrange something and get back to me. At the time, I was hoping it would be months away, but no such luck.  And you know what, it is time for me to do something like this. While I don’t know if I will have the guts to sing in front of others, I am going to spend some time with friends. It’s time for me to move forward differently.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking I need to start having fun. I know that I am too serious. My spirit is wrapped up in making the world a better place through activism, writing, other forms of creativity, and even my work. And while my creativity brings me real joy, I don’t really think of it as fun. While people tend to see me as someone who smiles and laughs easily, I am also someone who needs to work on having fun. More on that later.

Living authentically these last weeks has been hard. I want to hide, but somehow this hasn’t been an option this time around. My broken spirit is out of the closet. And while I am (somewhat) working and showing up in life, I am also being real with every step I am taking.

My loved ones are an AMAZING testament to what it means to be in my tribe. All I have to do is be me and they love me just as I am. I better stop here before I cry yet again.

Hineini, Here I am! I am doing the holy work of healing.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,

Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

 

 

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Creating daily practices has helped me to become more grounded in living. I love that my day includes lots of self-care along with political activism and a job that I love.

One way that I do self-care is by walking five miles a day and listening to podcasts with each step. One of the recent podcasts I tripped over was with Chase Jarvis interviewing Elle Luna who co-wrote the book, Your Story is Your Power. During this interview I realized that I had actually read Elle’s first book, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. No wonder some of the teachings and ideas sounded familiar. After listening to Chase interview Elle for her latest book, I had to listen to an earlier interview with these two exquisite visionaries. And that is where I came up with the idea to start my own version of  #The100DayProject which was totally inspired by Elle Luna’s project by the same name. (You can find the introduction to my project at https://wp.me/pthnB-3cw)

By the time I go to sleep  for tonight, Day 1 of #ActivistCardsByChava will be complete. Here are my “rules/non-rules”. Basically you do what you want and have fun, but if you want to join me here are some guidelines that you can use:

  1. The only premise is that participants have to do the same action every day for 100 days, and for those of you that want to share the process and have accountability, you can document it on Facebook and/or Instagram. Feel free to tag me or to add your photo onto my comments of either social media platform.
  2. My start day is Sunday, August 12/1 Elul through Tuesday, November 20/12 Kislev . The Hebrew start date comes from the Jewish calendar and is meaningful to me because it is a time of reflection within the Jewish calendar. This is not meant to exclude anyone, it is just that I am making note of it for myself.
  3. While #The100DayProject is an opportunity to be part of a larger group, it can be as solitary of an activity as you would like.
  4. I will be sharing my journey on Facebook (@Chava Gal-Or) and Instagram (@NeshamaWriter) using two hashtags #The100DayProject which is a hashtag that all of us can do and for my personal project, I will use #ActivistCardsByChava. My suggestion is that you make a hashtag for your project if you plan on sharing it via social media.
  5. Finally, if you choose to keep this project private, consider documenting it for yourself. AND besides, if you would like to share with me, I’d really love to see what you’re up to.

My Project:
#ActivistCardsByChava are cards that I will be creating to motivate  people (or perhaps just me) in the journey of making the world a better place. There are a lot of moving parts that go into making a difference. Simple smiles, rallying for human rights/dignity, making phone calls, writing letters/articles/social media posts, quotes, and self care are all possibilities of what will be included in the Activist Cards.

Day 1’s Activist Card was motivated by this beautiful video I found on Facebook.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRf6wAR-eEY

Onward with love, light, and creativity,

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December 2016 - looking out into waterNote: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5777, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-2NA)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This weekend has been wild. Seriously wild. Our family had to do so much to prepare for a short term guest that had the capacity to destroy our sacred space. I am sure you have had guests like that.

Anyway, our visitor is/was none other than Hurricane Harvey.

We had to do so much to prep for his visit. We had to purchase the perfect foods, sandbag our garage so that it wouldn’t flood as it normally does when the rain comes pouring down on Houston. We also had to gather our most important documents and collect things upstairs that we wanted to keep safe.

The stress was tremendous because car trouble had taken my excess money. Money is always tight, but natural disasters, health challenges, and car trouble are three things that remind me of how difficult it is to navigate life’s expenses. And my sons and I have had all three – again and again – over the last few months. Regardless of how much we struggle financially, we still had to prepare for our guest. His timing may have not been the best, but he was expecting to make landfall on Shabbat whether we wanted him or not.

To say, I was overwhelmed is an understatement. AND yet, I was also acutely mindful of how fortunate I am. We have a home, important documents, and what we need. And when I was deciding whether my sons and I would stay or go, I had friends offering me money, hotel points, their homes, and wisdom/insight. I even had a friend let me know that she has a basement that she is willing to open up to my sons and I on a more permanent basis if needed. I had this amazing village that lifted me up and created a safe container.

As a side note, it was the love that was flowing from old friends, new friends, and even social media friends that sustained me when despondency threatened to take over. As someone who doesn’t remember a lot of love as a child, I sometimes have a horrible default mode that leaves me spiritually untethered and feeling alone. But waking up to a sweet text from a beautiful childhood friend helped me re-focus the despondency; she offered to send me $500 so that my family would seek higher/safer ground. Wow.

We decided to stay home, but the offers of help continue to come. I am awed by the love that continues to flow. AND I am keenly aware that even when I become overwhelmed, I have friends that are there to be program managers, supporters, and listeners.

Maddie out backAnd since before the rain started to fall, we have barely gone an hour without a call, a text, a Facebook message asking if  we were doing ok. How beautiful is that?!?!?! And on a bit of a silly note, when I went on Facebook requesting “the best rain and water songs”, I received nearly 60 responses with suggested songs in a couple of hours . 🙂

Over the coming days, I will add more insight that I have received from this experience, but for now I want to take note of what it means to be a beloved friend. My family is truly surrounded by extraordinary souls.

During this time of Elul, I am charged with remembering to be loving and full of light like the village that surrounds me. I wouldn’t be the woman I am if it weren’t for the love that flows so freely within my world.

Sending love, light, and insight,
Chava

 

 

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Elul Reflections: Coming soon

December 2016 - looking out into water

I BELIEVE IN LIVING CONSCIOUSLY AND ALWAYS BEING REAL. This isn’t easy. You see, like all of us, I have many roles in my life. I am a mother, a sister, a friend; I am an educator, a community leader, and an activist; I am a woman, a thriver, and an intuitive. AND I am also a writer, a chanter, and a drummer; I embrace life with open arms and a passionate neshama, soul.  My creative and spiritual essence craves the freedom to share the fullness of who I am in all that I do.

According to Glennon Doyle, being real means getting ‘naked and unashamed’. While this leaves me vulnerable, it also gives me the wings I need to fly higher than I have ever flown before. Am I scared to unveil my core as a way to touch those that trip over my writings? ABSOLUTELY! My friend Diane Foushée (z’l) inspired me to reach deeply into my soul and share the fullness of my thoughts with my friends and readers. Until a couple months before her sudden death, I had no idea that she looked forward to the two times a year that I shared my journey as a seeker. During those times, I write a daily blog as I take the time to actively self-reflect and unveil my deepest thoughts.

Last year, I was too sad to write my daily Elul Reflections; although I did write a couple. Without Diane, I didn’t want to write.  I also didn’t know if my writing impacted anyone.  This feeling has changed. Over the last month, I have been blessed to have friends tell me how I have impacted their lives in a positive way.  Those friends have given me the courage to dive into sharing from my heart. As we move into Elul, the time of reflection just before the Jewish New Year, I will return to my writing practice that provided the sacred space to become more aligned as the woman I am. I will embrace the world with an open heart and a willingness to reach to a healthier and more balanced place in all that I navigate. I will share the rawness of my spirit with the gifts and challenges that are part of my reality.

As a ‘TRUTH TELLER’ and a writer, I want to weave my words and share my soul.  Join me.

Elul Reflections: Sharing My Inner Soul – Will begin Tuesday evening, August 22nd.

(Note: I have been impacted by some amazing writers and thinkers over the past couple of years. Glennon Doyle coined ‘truth teller’ and helped me through her podcasts to better understand what it means to be ‘naked and unashamed’. I am here!!! Hineini!

Other writers include Anne Lamott, Rebecca Solnit, SARK, Sheryl Sandberg (all from the Bay area – WOW!) and Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Danielle LaPorte, Martha Beck, among so many more. I read their books, listen to their podcasts and strive to embody their wisdom. If I ever say something and do not honor them by annotating their work, please forgive me. Over time I have realized that so much of how they think has entered into my subconscious.)

 

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Polish-Slovakian border - Stephanie Randall

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Randall; Location Pieniny National Park in Slovakia

 

Elul* is a time for deep reflection.

For one entire month, I will share my sometimes arduous but ultimately transformative journey towards Growing my Spirit AND Strengthening My Soul.

Writing is how I process all that is happening within me and around me. While I can express myself beautiful in conversation, if you really want to know what weighs heavy on my mind and spirit, read my writings. As my soul friend, Renee Airya, recently wrote, “I’m liberated by this sharing- not burdened by it.”

With every ounce of my being, I believe that each and every word will lead me to a new and healthier Jewish New Year. In these writings, I will openly share all the strength and brokenness that is part of me.

My decision to unveil both darker and lighter sides of my essence is meant as a tool. By embracing who I really am, I will be able to become more grounded which will enable me to soar higher in the coming year. With each word or step, my hope is to become a more authentic and graceful me.

Onward with love and light,
Chava

*Elul takes place the month before Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year. During this month, we are given the opportunity to reflect on our lives and work towards our future hopes, dreams, and realities.

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I am here to live out loud.
~Emile Zola

The moon is my guide; it allows me to mark the passing of time. Looking up into the night skies, the moon centers my spirit and keeps me grounded in life.  When the moon is whole, my entire body vibrates with an intensity and joy that is an integral part of my being. For some reason, I feel much more whole as a person when the light of the full moon is shining.

Full Moon Elul 5775. Courtesy of Jeff Keni Pulver

Courtesy of Jeff Keni Pulver: Full Moon Elul 5775.

 With the passing days  of Elul (within the Jewish calendar), I know that a little less than two weeks from now, I will be celebrating Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year.  My soul work during this time is to honor the energy that is part of me.  Allowing myself to live in my power and to trust my voice has been strengthened by this month’s full moon.

I am an intense and passionate woman; I love life and choose to live out loud. For various reasons, much of my life was buried away in a cocoon of silence. While I may be an introvert, I choose to allow for open windows into my soul. I know that if I want to make a difference, sharing my values, my views, and the passion is not optional. Years ago, I read a saying that has stayed with me:

“Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.”
~Susan Sontag

Without question, I know that my life would have been very different if so many people were not silent.  This realization is not cause for bitterness; instead it is a reminder to embrace life fully with all the intricacies that are part of who I am.

My hope and prayer is that the aliveness that has been strengthened during the full moon of Elul becomes part of my being every day of my life. Silence speaks louder than words, but words have a chance to change a potential collision course.

Hineini. . .Here I am!

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Sacred Vessel

“it was when she dipped deep inside,
and scooped out her very essence –
and then stretched her arms outwards
with her hands full of stars –
it was when those stars passed thru
her fingers and out to the world –
it was then she understood she was a sacred vessel.
that we are all sacred vessels –
with the entire universe flowing thru us –
and all we need to do is open and be.”

© Terri St. Cloud

Elul
The treasured time between now and the new year.
Days, hours, minutes, pass. . . .each moment brings me closer to Rosh HaShana.
This is my last chance to do a cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of my soul.

I will never experience this passage of time again. While I am in awe of how I emerged with the love and devotion of many this year; I am also aware of how much I was forced to renegotiate life as I knew it. Thriving is a non-negotiable, yet I am navigating loss and mourning what was lost; I am also celebrating how the tides turn and  the many ripples soothe my core.

Now comes the holy work of grounding myself. Finding a new rhythm, processing the experiences of the last year, and creating a new spiritual space in Houston and more importantly within my nefesh, my soul.  The work is a little overwhelming, but incredibly sacred too.

Over the last year, I have felt like I was standing in quicksand on more than one occasion. And yet, I never went down. While the trek taught me a ton, it is not one that I wish on anyone else. And yet, I stretched and I grew. . . how beautiful is that.

I love that I always find good within the challenges; I love that I find beauty in nearly every chapter of life. And yet, there is a cost.  I have decided that Elul is the perfect time to go inward, to reflect, and to allow for healing.

What does a true Elul Journey look like? I seem to be in a quieter place allowing for the silence to penetrate my being. Taking time to connect with people that want to see my soul; reading writings that touch my core; and writing from the deepest parts of my heart.

My body, my mind, and my soul is reaching for the stars, clearing the fog, and striving to settle into a new rhythm.

Emerging
Thriving, reaching, living
Becoming the woman I was always meant to be.
I am making it!

Inside and out – I am trusting each step as I reflect where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going.

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