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Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

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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“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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“The most significant gifts are the ones most easily overlooked. Small, everyday blessings: woods, health, music, laughter, memories, books, family, friends, second chances, warm fireplaces, and all the footprints, scattered throughout our days.”
~Sue Monk Kidd

Chava.cake

All of life has a rhythm.

For me, the rhythm comes from an inner light that radiates out and allows me to honor the beat of my heart and the song of my soul. With each step, I feel myself become more and more grounded to the earth.

Yesterday, I celebrated my life; I found joy in the love that surrounded me and in the peace within the storm of life.

For the days prior to my birthday, I was considering ignoring my birthday, removing any mention of it on Facebook and closing the door to my bedroom so that I could ‘lick my wounds’ from a challenging last year.  And then I realized that the last year does not define who I am as  a person.  But if it did define me, I would be a woman who defies darkness by always doing what it takes to succeed.

With each breath, I navigate the very real realities of life’s journeys, where I am, and where I want to go.  I dream big and then work towards making my dreams happen.

One of the most treasured gifts came from my friend and poet Susan Windle who said, “Love to you in your birthing time, dear Chava”.  Those sweet words reminded me that not only am I loved, but I am actively becoming the person I want to be.  This sacred birthing process is empowering me to grow in ways that would not have been possible in the not very distant past.

Authenticity is flowing from the core of my being.  I am seeking simplicity in all that I do; I am working towards living a life of transparency and integrity.  I am weaving words together and finding center by speaking with the fullness of my voice. Vulnerability no longer is filtered by the bravado that I don’t really feel.  I have learned and am continuing to learn how to use my voice in all of it’s forms.

Over the last year, I have been expressing my most purest of feelings without holding back from those closest to me. Sometimes tears fall down my cheeks as I try to cope with deep sadness; sometimes passion flows from my lips and from my fingertips. And then there is my laughter the reverberates the core of my being.  While I have always been real, I am trying to remove the shield that has sometimes protected me from my deepest of feelings.

I really do believe what my friend Marc Hershkowitz said, “I know it’s going to be a great year!” I am determined to shine and to be the best person I can be.

While life has been a little harsh of late, it doesn’t have to put an edge into my spirit. I am alive and I intend to celebrate the gifts that surround me with each and every rhythm that is part of my journey.

May this year be the year for my writing to inspire people, my creativity to flow, and my heart to emerge in new and beautiful ways.

This is my year to thrive; I hope you join me!

 

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“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
Quote by Aldous Huxley

I am an optimist.

By nature, I find the good in bad and strive to rise above whatever shit comes my way.  I also notice the rainbows after the storms – both metaphorically and figuratively.  I love life and I tend to make the best out it.

I don’t usually kvetch, whine, about human nature, but tonight I will.

So many well-meaning people feel inclined to tell people how to feel or how despondent they should be when difficult situations occur.  And guess what, none of them enlightenment; they need to be given room to feel exactly how they feel. That goes for me too! 🙂

Years ago, my seriously ill son was heading into his second brain surgery when he had a reaction to the lights and sounds of pre-op.  The lights and sounds physically and desperately caused him pain; in fact, his pain was beyond anything anyone expected for the then 14 year old Aryeh.   At one point, after unexpected hours of trying to prep my son for surgery, a doctor turned to Aryeh and said, “I need to give you a shot, but I promise you it won’t hurt.  Really.  I promise.”  At that, Aryeh started screaming, “Don’t tell me what I will or won’t feel; you don’t know.” To my amazement, the doctor responded beautifully when he said, “No, I don’t know. And I have no right to ever tell anyone how they will feel.”  Instantly, Aryeh calmed down and allowed the doctor to again explain what would happen while sharing how he may or may not feel, but not how he would feel.  And with each word, the doctor spoke with integrity and in the end, Aryeh told him how it felt.

From that very real life experience, I learned never to tell someone how they feel.  When I meet someone who has lost someone they loved or has been sick or whatever, I do not make any assumptions. Each and every one of us handles pain and sadness in our own unique ways.

At this point you may be wondering why am I sharing this now?

Many of you know that the last year has been often overwhelming and sometimes just down-right painful.  Under-employment, Unemployment, loss, and . . . .  well I am sure each person who knows me will have an opinion of what my year must have felt like.   But, I want everyone to stop telling me what I must feel or how hard it is or was.   Instead, take a moment and listen.  If you want to know how I feel, let me share it with you.

In my heart I know that nearly every person who is telling me how they think I am is actually sharing their empathy and how much they care.  But my challenges are my challenges; your challenges are your challenges.  Let us both listen to each other and share what is in our hearts.

While I know that I have been having some hard times; I have also found sparks of light in the darkness.  At any given moment, I may feel anxious or peaceful, sad or happy, joyous or frustrated.  I don’t need someone to enlighten me on how I should or do feel.

Each of us navigate life in the best way we know how; we all see those realities through our own lens.

Someone obviously thought this was a congested area; I saw it as an oasis of solitude.

Someone obviously thought this was a congested area;  I saw it as an oasis of solitude.

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Many of my friends know I really do love tie-dye!!! In fact my entire family loves tie-dye!

What I have grown to appreciate is that our friends actually acknowledge our love of tie-dye in a variety of ways.  Over the years, we have received a few special presents that included tie-dyes of varying types.  When my son Aryeh was sick, his friends made him tie-dye sheets that actually covered him and surrounded him when he was recovering from brain surgery.  On other occasions, friends have found great tie-dye shirts and even a scarf at a thrift shop.  And then last week a good friend found an amazing t-shirt at a Grateful Dead Weekend.  And guess what, he mailed me the shirt this week! Why do you think he did this? Just because. . . . .

TyeDye6

Over the last few years, I have thought a lot about how I can connect with people.  I am not the best in staying in touch, but I have been  intentionally trying to change my ways.  Still I know that when I am not staying in contact, it does not mean that I don’t love someone; it is because I have been honoring my need for quiet time in a world that is often too kinetic.  There is always something to do.

Yet, I have to say that I am profoundly touched  by those that somehow find the time to give in any way.  I love when friends and loved ones drop me a card, send me a small treasure, or give me a new rock/stone for my collection.  I never take the small and large acts of kindness for granted; I am in awe of each and every person that reaches out.

When my older son Aryeh was critically ill, people went out of their way to send cards, make us meals, or visit for just a few minutes.  People cared.  Once when Dovi, my younger son, was really sick, an acquaintance came over to give me a new Book of Psalms because she knew that I like to say/chant psalms as part of our healing journey.  To this day, tears come to my eyes nearly each and every time I use my book of Tehillim (Psalms); since I use it nearly every day, I am wondering if I should have saved those tears in a bucket. 🙂

Recently, a new friend took time to find chants that she thought would touch me and then she took time to create a few CDs for me to cherish.  Another new friend has been sharing some amazing musical compositions that he wrote, nearly every one of them takes my breath away.  They are beautiful!  People keep sharing, their music, their art/photographs, their words – Just because. . .

How awesome is that?!?!?!!!!!

With all this in mind, I have been sending ‘thinking of you’ cards to people for every occasion.  The funny thing is that I sent out a ton of cards over the last few months and I am not sure that all of them reached their destination.  Unless people acknowledge them, there is no way to know.  (BTW, I believe a large stack was lost by the mail service; but I can’t know for sure. LOL!) And you know what? I love that I am learning to give just because. . . 

Through watching the many people that have touched my life through giving in large and small ways, I am learning to be a little more thoughtful.  Sometimes I pick up the phone and call an old friend, just because it feels like it is time to do it.  I really do love forever; I care in profound ways.  Today I am trying to show those I love  and/or those that I care for how much I do by taking a moment to reach out.

To give and to receive is such a gift (physical and/or emotional). I love when people do something just because they can, just because they care, just because. . . .

One thing I don’t want to leave unsaid is the power of giving to a stranger.  When Aryeh was really sick, I was blown away by the strangers that reached out to help us over the years.  Why did they do this? Just because. . . . And now as I am in the midst of reaching out and asking for people to help us in our journey to move east by giving to our Go Fund Me account http://www.gofundme.com/g8o220, I have been completely humbled by the lovely souls that have given to the fund without having met me.  I have also been brought to ‘happy’ tears by those that know me. I really never expected that people were give.  I was praying and hoping they would, but not expecting. Wow.

Whether we send cards, give tie-dyes, make meals, or ________ (you fill in the blank), know that giving always makes a difference in the lives of those we touch.

May I remember to always give in a loving way,  just because. . . . .

With blessings & light,

Chava

PS – When I buy Tie Dye for my family, I only buy from Milky Wave Tie Dye in Opal, Virginia; it’s our family tradition.  We found this Tie Dye shack years ago; it was a gift in every way.  The moment my family walked into the store, we became a tie dye family and the family that owned Milky Wave Tie Dye became our family too.

PPS – Take a moment to like Milky Wave Tie Dye on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/milkywavetiedye?fref=ts

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