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Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

Inca trail to Macchu Piccu -Credit Lauren Rader's Art and Releasing the Creative Powers Within Classes

Inca Trail to Macchu Piccu; Photo Credit: Lauren Rader

A year ago I was in a very different place. Even though I was able to do what I needed to do, I was despondent and not sure how I would muster the strength each day to not only sustain my family, but to create that which would jazz my soul.  I was struggling with all of life’s moving parts.

With a baggage of regret and deep sadness, I began a trek that would lead me to dig deeply in hopes of finding a better direction for my life. With the help of friends, I packed up a storage space with most of my belongings in Tucson and my family moved to a friend’s house between no-where and no-where else in Louisa, Virginia.

Over a tough period of time, I navigated so much loss – job, friendships, and a sense of belonging.  I also questioned whether or not it was time to leave a profession I loved. Today I can look at most of the losses a little differently than I did at first. The best things about closed doors is that you know EXACTLY where you stand.

Each and every step of the way, gifts emerged when I least expected it. When I couldn’t afford groceries, provisions and/or money showed up; other times friends showed up in unexpected ways. Even part time jobs found their way into my life, I, quite literally, had what I needed to care for my sons – ALWAYS. And when the sink busted at my friends house, a neighbor saved the day. And when the toilet busted. . . I saved the day! I really did learn what it meant both ask for help and to rely on myself.

Throughout the journey my sons, Aryeh and Dovi, grew and evolved. It isn’t my place to tell their stories, but I am so proud of the young men that they became. Both of the guys navigated the best way they knew how. And we did it as a family!

Funny how looking back is hard now and yet it was nearly impossible to look forward when but when life was the toughest.

If I am completely honest with myself, my struggles began nearly three years ago when I realized my move to Tucson was professionally not a good move. In retrospect, it was a great decision because that move probably got me to where I am today. I believe that all that happens in life makes up where we are in this moment. If so, Tucson’s toxic work environment made me stronger and more clear in what I wanted for my life. It also gave me some amazing connections and allowed me to more clearly see the many beloveds in my life.  Wow!!

I don’t know how to thank each person/family that gave me money to sustain myself or those that enabled me to find rewarding work along the way. Many guardian angels gave their love, their time, their skills, their money, and their prayers or positive energy. When my computers died, a refurbished one showed up. When I needed enlightenment, an inspiring book showed up. When my car died (many times), people helped. When my tears were falling, music propelled me to new heights. All of this happened because of the graciousness of those that believed in me. Even as I write this, tears are welling in my eyes. I may still be struggling, but life is AWEsome. Because of so many, I am blessed and thriving (and my sons are too)!

Today I am working in a community in Houston that warms my heart and inspires me to stretch; together with so many others, I am working to create an amazing learning environment for all.  I am also starting to plan how to birth my nonprofit, My Second Foundation, which will create retreats for adult survivors of childhood trauma. And I am finally taking steps to make a difference in the world. Human rights for all has always been a driving force, so now I am actively engaging in actions that I believe will make a difference. At least, I am able to show up for all of life.

In my free time, I am doing so much to nurture my spirit. I am working with a beloved friend Rabbi Jill Zimmerman who has created Hineni: The Mindful Heart Community. (Check out http://www.ravjill.com/hineni-the-mindful-heart-community/ and consider joining this group, it is simply empowering.) I am also writing, drumming, chanting, and connecting with the earth. I am endeavoring to honor the person I am by allowing my energy to flow. I am also becoming more authentic with each step I take.

So while the last years have caused me to reflect and to climb many mountains, they have also enabled me to shine and to emerge as the woman I am.  I am finding balance and hopefully allowing my spirit to better shine.

Loving the universe. Feeling the blessings. Treasuring what is.

May I always find the AWEsomeness in life’s gifts and challenges. May I always see my guardian angels.

O N W A R D!!!!
Chava

(Note: My hope and my prayer is that I am as loving a soul as so many have been to me and my family.)

 

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i miss the loving energy that once fueled my soul
i know that tonight is a moment. . .
the sun will shine tomorrow
the blessing is that i always find my way

Life is messy. With the many moving parts, gifts and complications exist at every turn. No matter how good things appear on the outside, my inside is full and always have been.  Mostly I navigate and find light, but sometimes darkness permeates my being.

I struggle with some of life’s realities. My car needs another $900 of work; I never have enough time to nurture my creative spirit; I am not sure how I will afford this month or next; the world is full of so much hatred.

At the same time, I have the most amazing Monday Morning Torah Study Chavurah (group); my family is healthy; I have recently lost 26 lbs by better taking care of myself; my friends are the most amazing people in the world; writing jazzes my soul; my new position reminds me that I make a difference to others as a Jewish Educator.  There is so much to be grateful for.

Finding balance can be so hard. Yet this morning, after I took a deep breath, I realized no matter how difficult my life can feel, I have most of what I need. And the things that I think I need. . . probably aren’t needs.

There are so many people that need more than they have. A mattress on the floor would be better than the ground they have to rest their head on each night.  Being a vegetarian is a choice I have made; there are many people that would be blessed to have a morsel of food or a clean glass of water. While I am missing the changing leaves, the Tucson skies, and the ocean, I am living in a city that offers walking paths and playgrounds in nearly every area. My world really is quite amazing.

In order to go inward and celebrate the life I have, I am slowly allowing myself to go to a more silent place.  The more I voice my ‘third world problems’, the larger the challenges seem to loom. I want to be a little more quiet and allow for the gratitude to flow through me.  I am surrounded by love, by beauty, and loving souls.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava
Listen to the Silence

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“there is no map.
you gotta write your own.
you gotta carve your own.
you gotta sweat, cry, grieve,
laugh, and love your own.
and when you’re all done,
that’s all that will have mattered.”
© Terri St. Cloud

Life has been filled with amazing gifts and undeniably difficult journeys. Yet, I have been blessed with the ability to ALWAYS find ways to navigate. In my younger years, I often felt alone; over the last half of my life, I have felt held and loved with every step.

As I move towards my 50th birthday, I am intrigued by how far I have come. But lest you think it is about the specifics of my life, it isn’t. Each and every one of us are unique. While we may have those that guide us in our journeys, there is no one like me (or you) out there. We can learn from others, but they can’t make the trek for us.

Tonight, as I was talking to a friend. I realized that I could tell her how I would move through a challenging situation, but then I stopped myself. Sharing my intuition or my insight is one thing, but I am not qualified to do more than share. My friend has to make her own decisions.

Light and blessings surround me at every turn. Dark moments happen, but enlightening sparks are never far behind. I have always emerged from sadness, pain, violence, and challenges. That has been my choice. . .it is what I do. Not only do I emerge, but I soar. I find the gifts within the challenges, the light within the darkness.

I love that my map is guided by my spirit; I am one of the luckiest people I know.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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Today I realized that I am happy.

With every ounce of my being, I realized that the pain of the last few years has been easing up and evaporating. My entire focus is now on growing healthier, nurturing friendships, soaring spiritually, and gaining knowledge at every turn.

Today I am blessed with two healthy sons, a new home, a new city, a new position, some new friends, and healthier lifestyle habits. I am aware of the infinite possibilities that are available.

Somehow, yesterday doesn’t matter – not really.  What matters is that I have learned from each and every experience. I am who I am because of the way I walk in the world and what I have endured – the good, the challenging, and simply life.

The last several years have included some intense pain and loneliness, but I have been blessed at nearly every step. I was never really alone; I was shedding life’s extra weight while a community of beloveds gave their love, their money, many precious gifts, and heartfelt prayers.

While there were moments when I literally feared for my family’s well-being, they were few and far between. Friends and acquaintances opened their homes, offered food, and made it possible for us to thrive. All of our basic needs and more were met.

I am in awe of how beautifully things worked. Reflecting honestly has caused my spirit to soar.

May I be a person that shows up when I am needed and who gives in every way I can.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

This week, I started filling my happiness jar with positive things that happen each day.
This week was the week I started filling my happiness jar with positive things that happen each day.

PS – Intensity is part of who I am, but I am grateful to the fact that my personal life is landing in a great place; I haven’t forgotten that I was brought into this world so that I could make a difference for good.

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Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed? Yesterday was my day! But with my mattress on the floor, I didn’t have far to go.

Nearly every moment of the day, I was either close to tears or crying. I felt like a storm that left tons of puddles. My spirit felt crushed and my heart felt broken. Sometimes it is hard to believe how deeply I feel.

Over the course of yesterday and probably most any day, if I allowed myself, I could cry for all the injustices that have surrounded my life. I could also cry because nine spiritual souls were murdered in their House of Prayer. I could cry for the homeless people I see on every corner in Houston. I could cry for my perceptions of US and Israel politics. I could cry because I have some friends that are struggling with their lives. I could cry for the wildfires that are destroying land I love (and making life challenging for so many.) I could cry because I am missing one very beloved soul that was in my life who for various reasons is essentially dead to me. Yesterday was one of those days that I wish I wasn’t so sensitive.

Raw intensity is absolutely a reality of my being. I love deeply; I feel deeply. When I allow myself the time and space, I am a very gentle soul that can usually manage all of my moving parts. Usually. Not always.

Yesterday was not a day for holding back my tears. I cried. I sulked. AND regardless of how I was feeling, I kept finding rainbows. Bright beautiful rainbows.  Nearly every moment of my day included beautiful ironies that imbued a sense of balance within my melancholy spirit.

  • As my eyes my opened this morning, I saw an absolutely beautiful photo taken by the amazing Jade Beall. All of Jade’s photos fill my eyes with tears; she has a way of capturing the most awe-inspiring women and children. Now that would have been enough, but then I read the words of an absolutely stunning woman who had never seen her beauty before she saw Jade’s photos of her. Both women were full of pure grace in my eyes.
  • After a little while, I read David Bedrick’s thoughts on self-love. In that moment, I wanted to skip it. I wasn’t open to the possibility. And then I read the Gregory Orr poem:

    Squander it all!

    Hold nothing back.

    The heart’s a deep well.

    And when it’s empty,
    It will fill again.

  • A short time later, also on David Bedrick’s discussion on self-love, I saw a photo of a mural that seemed to be reminding me how to live my life. Great message for the perfect moment. (see below)
  • One of my closest friends called.
  • After being told that one of my congregant’s dog was essentially afraid of his own shadow and does not go to anyone, Rocky couldn’t stop coming to me for love. I felt so blessed to receive this pup;s love!
  • Aryeh, my older son, called from where he is working at a camp in California. I am so proud of him for persevering the wildfires and the very rustic conditions that are a result of the wildfires.
  • A friend mailed me a fabulous book!!! I was so surprised and touched!
  • Dovi and I cooked a great dinner together.
  • On Facebook, I admitted how lonely I was feeling in Houston and people reached out. So many people reminded me that I was loved. In the end, new friends invited me into their lives and other friends helped make connections so that I wouldn’t feel so lonely. Now I will experience a chant group tonight, Gay Pride over the weekend, and new friends and new experiences over the coming weeks. I may even try karaoke with my new friends. 🙂
  • I read a blog by Amanda Palmer who’s best friend just died. That opened up the floodgates and allowed me to cry. Remember, I was also in the midst of actively grieving my own loss.
  • Students voted to take down the Confederate Naval Flag at the The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, SC.
  • I took a long walk with my dog and used that time to chant!!! Awe-someness!!!
  • And then there were the sayings that kept showing up guiding me how to live life with more grace and personal integrity. Here is the one that resonated, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. KEEP THE CHANNEL OPEN!” As quoted in The Life and Work of Martha Graham (1991) by Agnes de Mille.
  • A couple of friends called and allowed me the safe space to feel and share what I was feeling.
  • While I was looking forward to the Gratitude and Trust Summit or #gratitudetrust140 for today, I was so grateful that late last night Jeff Pulver and I chatted on Facebook and he messaged me the info so I could log on to LiveStream!!! I am so fortunate to witness Jeff’s inspirational journey and how his visions impact the so many.

Reflection: Even as I struggled with intense sadness and pain yesterday, I kept finding blessings at every turn. And while, the blessings couldn’t heal me from my pain, they sure filled my spirit with light. Now that’s what I find ironic.

Just in case you may be wondering, rainbows make me cry too!!!

REMINDER:

Photo Courtesy of Joel Gunz-Portland, Oregon's Alberta Street

Photo Courtesy of Joel Gunz-                     Portland, Oregon’s Alberta Street

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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 . . . .]

Photo courtesy of Simon Rosenblatt. Being called up to the Torah for an aliyah is amazing, but it is time for me to read from the Torah again.

Photo courtesy of Simon Rosenblatt. Being called up to the Torah for an aliyah is amazing, but it is time for me to read from the Torah again.

How I LOVE learning Torah!!!!

Being whole means doing things that jazz my soul. fuel my being, and nourish my body. When I am doing these thing, it means that life is good.

While any one thing may not be enough to keep me happy, doing the things that have the capability of making me more whole can only lead to being a better me!

Early this week, I was going to cancel doing a D’var Torah (Torah Talk) at a local chavurah (group that gathers together).  At the time, I was realizing that I had really missed the opportunity to daven (pray) with this group while living in Louisa, Virginia and I wasn’t sure that what I had to offer would touch them.  Upon further reflection, I realized that this group was one of the most holy groups I have been privileged to daven with. With that in mind, I started the holy work of preparing to lead a Torah study.

The particular parsha (Torah portion) was initially not the easiest one for me to conquer, but as time progressed, I found a way to navigate that made my heart sing. And through the learning, I found the perfect chant to lead into the honoring of this portion.

In Parshat Emor (The Torah Portion called Emor), I learned that while practices may often feel harsh and judgmental, it is important to look deeper at the wisdom and the person before you.

הינך יפה רעיתי
Hinach yafah rayati, hinach yafah!
H
ow beautiful You are, my friend, how beautiful are!
– Song of Songs 1:15

Often times, I see the blessings and the gifts for things that I originally saw as difficult or even ugly. But some times I need the reminder to dig for a deeper understanding. The Torah challenges us to look and explore the wisdom even when it makes no sense.

When you look at what many of us refer to as the Living Torah, you can find real tools for leading an ethical life. Sometimes, the initial lesson may inspire us to live differently than what we perceive the written word to be saying. But when we give ourselves the time to deeply examine what is being said than we may find something altogether different. This is what happened to me this week.

I am blessed with wise friends and teachers that inspire me to learn and who share their knowledge freely. And I am surrounded by books and wisdom of many people throughout all ages.

The blessing of this particular parsha is that I learned to see the Torah through different eyes and to treasure the many offerings that I understand and even some that I don’t yet understand. And the most beautiful teaching that I received was in learning the power of digging deeper.

Each of us are beautiful. Each of us have our own unique gifts to offer. Each of us are part of what makes the world exactly what it is.

May we choose to impact the world with beauty and acceptance for all. May we find value in the gifts that each unique person brings into our world.

Sending you love, light, and blessings,
Shabbat Shalom,
In chant,
Chava

PS – After Shabbat, I will share a version of my D’var Torah.

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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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