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Posts Tagged ‘Elul’

“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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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

 

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The world is full of infinite possibilities, but still I have to take the first step. ~Chava Gal-Or

My hope is to relive my running days by beginning a new running/jogging journey with these awesome new shoes. Took the first step by purchasing the shoes…now for the rest of the journey. . . .

Writing Elul Reflections has been a profound practice for me.  Thanks for joining in my journey and sometimes sharing your thoughts.

One of the most precious gifts about this journey was taking the time to actually reflect thoughts that often surface for me.  Grappling with these thoughts has been huge for me; taking the time to write about my thoughts has also helped me to feel more balanced as I go into 5773, the Jewish New Year.

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
~Joan Didion

Through Elul Reflections, I have begun to realize that I have three non-negotiables in my life:

  1. A writing  practice needs to be part of my daily life.
  2. Whenever possible, I need to spend time with people that nurture my soul.
  3. There is enormous power in silence and solitude.

With that in mind, I will be taking some time over the next 10 days, Yomim Noraim* to build these three practices into my daily life.  My guess and my hope is that I will appear a little more silent in all areas of my life and that I will become a little more present for myself.

Balance doesn’t just happen.  In order to achieve balance, you need to create the space that makes it possible to occur.  My hope is that by continuing my Elul journey and doing more of the sacred work as the New Year begins, I will create the space that allows for more harmony within my life.

May it be so.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.  May you and your loved experience an abundance of blessings, good health, and light as you embrace 5773.

With love and light,

Chava

*The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are commonly known as the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim) or the Days of Repentance. This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur. (http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday3.htm)

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As Elul winds down, I am feeling the need to go to a quiet space.  While there might be more to share, I don’t have much more to add at this time.  Over the last month, I have taken the time to open my heart and share honestly not only about my life but tools for creating sacred space within your own lives, tools for reflection, and finding a more balanced foundation.

On Day 28, I want to emphasize my last essential thought for navigating life as a whole and Elul in particular.  The more simple you make life’s journeys, the easier life is to navigate.  Find joy in simplicity; enjoy the realities of what is as you make choices to stretch yourself.  Live honestly with yourself, live with your own integrity; try not to think so much about what others think of you.

May all of us endeavor to find a sacred space within our own lives as we create our own toolbox for growing spiritually and emotionally.

With love, light, and blessings,

Chava

 

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I am a human being; I struggle with how to walk in the world and how to live according to my values.  Sometimes I slip, other times I excel at keeping to my values.  And I often struggle to articulate information about the issues that I hold dear.  I seem to become tongue tied instead of being able to give the facts that support my actions.  This is the time that my introverted tendencies become ridiculously obvious.  Sigh.

When it comes to doing Tikun Olam (repairing the world) or living consciously, nothing is a laughing matter.  There is so much holy work to do; none of us can do it all, but each of us can do our part.  Yet when you decide to live consciously by honoring what you know to be true; life can be so much more precious.

This week I was challenged and called a hypocrite (in humor) for eating a york peppermint patty.   I didn’t buy it, but I picked it up, and ate one.  Being called a hypocrite for eating something which probably utilized cocoa beans that were harvested by slave labor is wrong.  Unquestionably wrong.  The person was being playful, but to me it was/is a value that I hold dear.  How could I let myself partake in something I know to be wrong?

There are so many values that are guiding principles for how I walk in the world and sometimes I act irresponsible and do things that aren’t really ok for me to do.  If I hold a value dear to my heart than I should be living consciously with that value.  I do not preach to others unless they ask questions about my choices; sometimes I will speak publicly or actively engage in actions that show my values, but mostly I am fairly silent.

As I move into this year, perhaps it is time for me to live more honestly with my values.  I have a choice in how I choose to walk in this world.  Walking gently in the world is a value that parallels my love for family and Judiasm; I don’t want to be a hypocrite with values that I hold dear.  It is time to walk one way.

 

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Photo from this morning courtesy of Judy Shepard Gomez

As I settle into life here in Tucson, I am astounded by the beauty that surrounds me.  Each and every morning, I look to the north and with a tear running down my face I chant Hebrew for the words,

“How great is your work, oh God, how very deep are your thoughts!”          Psalm 92:6

Sometimes I wonder how I am blessed to see such beauty.  And in truth, we all are, we just need to open up our eyes and our hearts to that which surrounds us.

Today a friend walked into my office and gave me mint to plant.  I have no idea what I am doing, but I will try.  The smell waffled through my office today and left me with a huge smile.  And then I came home to try to dig a hole in my yard so that I could plant the mint.  It didn’t work; tomorrow I will buy soil for a pot I have so that I can plant my mint.  I am so excited!!!

Life is full of moments.  I am always amazed how beautiful my world is! I have precious children that I teach, a fabulous caring community that I joined only recently, and my own family and friends that I treasure.

The key to life is remembering to open your eyes, your heart, and all of your senses so that you can see, feel, hear, the beauty that surrounds you.  Even on the days when you feel moments of darkness, take the time to look a little deeper, don’t forget to take a deep breathe and focus on one beautiful aspect of your life.  While perfection is worthy of desire, try to notice the small gifts.  The more you do; the more you will find.

In most any given moment, gifts can be found.  May we all be blessed to see them.

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Writing Elul Reflections has given me the opportunity to share my intense side without delving into any drama.  On any given day, I reflect about the world around me.  I notice the small things; I notice the large things.  What I notice more than anything is how people handle life’s realities.

Accidents happen; moments happen.  It takes a moment to create positive and challenging reverberations that affect the rest of your day and sometimes the rest of your weeks, months, or years.

Over the past few days, I have excitedly been considering taking up running again.  I can’t wait to try, to gain physical strength, and to ultimately succeed.  I believe in myself; I believe in my power to  move forward by physically engaging in life.

Accidents Happen; Moments Happen.

Today was one of those days, I slipped and now I am in some physical discomfort.   To say I am just a little bummed at the timing is an understatement.  There is so much to do and in this moment I don’t have the physical endurance to do it. Not to mention, I want to run more than almost anything I have wanted to do in a long time.  Unfortunately, that probably isn’t going to happen for a little while longer; my entire right side of my body and now my lower back is feeling the impact of a little accident.

Reality is that I will absolutely be fine in a few days or maybe a week.  But in this moment, in the coming days, I get to decide how to move through this reality.  Tonight I am bummed and feeling just a little uncomfortable, but in truth the accident also feels like a message.  As I write this Elul Reflection, I get to decide how I will move through this moment.  Will I have a positive attitude? Will I whine? Will I ignore the discomfort and still push myself to what needs to be done regardless of how I feel.  The jury is still out for me in this situation.

Life is full of moments and we all get to decide how to move through each and every one of them.  Honoring your feelings is a good thing, but letting your feeling detract from healing isn’t so good.  When you realize that even some tough situations can be remedied, then you will truly be able to make a challenging situation better.

Just under two years ago, I had to have some surgery.  Friends from all over the country and even a few outside the country mailed me a thoughtful word to help me move through my healing journey.  With each word, I created a vision board.  The vision board helped me to focus on the positive opportunities that were possible.

We always have a choice how to cope with the moments regardless of how complex they might be. And for the most parts, while I often have initial moments of frustration, sadness, or anger, I am usually blessed to find the positive realities of those challenging moments.  And if I ever forget, I have a beautiful vision board to help me refocus my attitude.

Ultimately, I know I will be 100% fine; I always am!  Sometimes I just have to remember that reality.  I will be running again in no time, just maybe not exactly on the day I wanted to begin.

May we all be blessed to find the kernels of positive thoughts as we navigate life’s situations.

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