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Posts Tagged ‘Godliness’

Prologue:
Over the coming period of time, I will share how I use writing to quiet my mind, to navigate darkness, to center my spirit, and to propel myself forward.  As Joan Didion says:

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.”

For various reasons, I often feel silenced. This is not working for me any longer. People have every right to interpret my words in any way they want. Take what touches you and move forward as you wish. But here is one thing that you, the reader, should know – Once I release my words into the universe, they have come to do what they were meant to do.

While I share my writing unapologetically, I also write because I have no choice, it is how I am best able to walk in the world.

Writing,
the song of my heart;
t
he meaning of my mind;
t
he feeling of my soul;
Is what makes me One.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Toe in Water February 2018
The only journey is the one within. 

~ Rainer Maria Rilke 

I feel with my entire being.

Every fiber of my body navigates wherever I am in any given moment. My mind, my heart, and my soul are interconnected.

In this moment, I am grappling with loss, darkness, and transformation. I am navigating with an open spirit and with the realization that I am doing exactly what I need to do.

This journey called life is full of moving parts. I don’t think I am alone when I say we maneuver as we need to, we find center, and then we find a sinkhole (sometimes). If we are blessed, we resume the cycle again and again. And if we are really fortunate, the sinkhole doesn’t always have to be so dramatic. Sometimes the sinkhole may feel overwhelming under our feet, but in reality it simply includes peaks and valleys over the course of life.

This past week, I realized that more than anything in my life right now, I crave the feel of holy or sacred ground under my feet. I know this is lofty, but I don’t have time for anything less. My heart is too full and my spirit is too aware. So when reality hits and holy ground is nowhere to be found, I am profoundly aware that I have to believe that what I am doing involves sacred connections or simply working towards doing tikkun olam, repairing the world, with the most godliness of intentions.

Join me as I actively dip my toes into water and open the window to my soul.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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December 2016 - looking out into waterSometimes I am blessed to open a book of poetry to the perfect poem, a magazine to an article that I needed to hear, or just maybe, the person I most need to see shows up in an unexpected moment. Today seemed to be that day for me, in fact in a weird way all three  of these scenarios seemed to be covered when I opened up the book Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown.

Isn’t it funny how life works? I found a passage spoken by poet Maya Angelou and I read a chapter of a what I believe will be a great book written by someone I have no doubt could be my friend if we crossed paths. A few minutes before opening the book, I felt myself go into a dark place as I realized that I have never belonged anywhere – not really.  On a good day, I find peace with myself and enjoy what surrounds me. On a tougher day, I feel deep loneliness that feels like it shreds my heart. On most days, I see-saw back and forth between feeling like I belong and knowing I don’t.  While the journey can feel daunting, I often ride these waves with ease, finding balance along the way.

Post Hurricane Harvey has been challenging. Harvey gave me a lot of time to worry about what I may lose and accept that most of it didn’t matter or at least didn’t matter much. That lead me to reflect about what actually matters to me and who matters. Harvey also brought me face to face with some painful realities and impending losses. I guess you can say that this storm shattered my heart and right now I am taking the time to cry, to heal, and to embrace new opportunities in how I walk in the world. None of the specifics matter in this moment, but this journey has reinforced that I really fit no where and yet I can fit everywhere.

What’s surreal to me is that I do have beautiful villages of people that surround me. For the most part they are somewhat connected while often not connected at all.  Each village gives me places to go when I am looking to surround myself with beloved friends or when I need shelter from a brewing storm, but I am so aware that at any point I can leave without my footprint being missed for too long. This could come from the fact that I am a wandering Jew who has lived in many different places over the years – rarely settling in one place long enough to plant serious roots.

In Brene Brown’s newest book, she quotes Dr. Maya Angelou from an interview she gave Bill Moyers that aired on public television in 1973, she said:

You are only free when you realize you belong no place–
you belong every place–no place at all.
The price is high. The reward is great.

Why is this coming up today of all days?

In part this is emerging because today is Yom Kippur and I am not feeling well enough to be in services. And besides not feeling well, I am having what has become my tug-of-war with this time of the year. I question EVERYTHING about what this time of year means. So. . .what does someone that doesn’t necessarily believe in God do with this energy? How do I navigate what I believe with my love of Judaism and the Jewish people?

On Yom Kippur, traditional teachings tell us that on this day God will decide who will live and who will die. The problem is that I have never believed in THAT God or quite honestly, I don’t really believe in God at all.  For me, Yom Kippur is a time to go inward and to reflect on how I fit into the world and to question do I do enough to make this world a better place. I do believe in the power of the universe, but my faith allows me not to have all the answers, instead I am ok with the unknown and I don’t have to look for God in my life. Instead, I simply chose to adopt an attitude of love for creation and a desire to have a positive impact on the world I live.

For the most part, I have come to accept that even though I have a strong suspicion that I don’t quite fit in to any Jewish community or anywhere, I am still confident that I can navigate nearly any road and visit with ease. I can struggle with God yet still inspire a love of creation and a devotion to Judaism.

Through my writing, I have learned how and when to be a chameleon and when to let my true self shine.  My writing gives me an outlet to comfortably share my vulnerability instead of hiding my views behind my silence; I no longer want to have secrets that force me to be what I am not. Like so many others, I have done that too much in my life.  I guess that is why I am choosing to share what I truly believe about God: I don’t focus on what God is or isn’t, instead I root myself in Godliness or God-energy.  (More on that in a future blog. . .)

Belonging would be lovely, but for now I think it is better that I remain rooted in myself, perhaps even belonging to myself. This way I can be the woman I am — striving to stretch and grow with each and every step I take.  And at the same time, I have found the few friends I value deeply while embracing others that are simply a beautiful part of my life. I guess you could say that while I sometimes feel dark, I am (mostly) content for what I do have.

Have you ever opened up a book that was perfectly aligned to what your spirit needed at the time? I am so grateful that I was able to do exactly that on the holiest day of the Jewish year. I am fairly certain that Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown will continue to motivate me to write more blogs.

Sending love, light, & blessings,
Chava

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yahrzeit candle

Upon hearing of someone’s death we say, “ברוך דיין האמת / Baruch dayan ha-emet,” Blessed is the true judge.

While I often feel compelled to follow tradition, this expression is the source of great struggle for me. I don’t think Gd’s judgement causes death or holds truth. . .I just don’t. Tsunamis happen; earthquakes and volcanoes destroy; accidents occur. . . . Perhaps all of these happen because of things that humans have done, but I don’t think there is a force in the world that literally decides ‘who shall live and who shall die’.

I am so tired of people dying tragically, young, or with pain. Every time someone gets sick, gets murdered, tragically dies, or ages painfully – I struggle. Each time, a family has to bury their newborn or young child, I struggle.Basically, I struggle with the concept that any of this can be ordained.

Life is precious – all the moving parts of life, even death can be profoundly beautiful and feel Gd-like. And yet, I don’t feel that way when I hear about terrorism, murder, sudden accidents, or any tragedy. If I believed it all came from Gd, I couldn’t be the person I am. Sh^% happens. People die. Free-will causes great good in the world, horrible atrocities, and everything in the between.

As I embrace life, I find myself traumatized by the very notion that Gd may preordain our lives. I know that there are many that have such a belief, but as for me, I need to stick with the notion that godliness is possible.

May we all give and experience godliness energy in our midst. May we all have a spark that lights up the world for good.

 

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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.

Western Minnesota Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller Western Minnesota

I thrive on living authentically and being transparent within my writing and in all human interactions. That does not mean that I always succeed, but it is my work.  My hope is that you will find interesting stories or thoughts and if I am skilled perhaps some tools of how you may or may not approach your own life’s journey.

Wholeness refers to completeness or shalem in Hebrew.  Being full of wholeness means we feel spiritually healthy and undivided or in one piece.  (Dictionary.com) Personally, I would add that when we are in a place of wholeness, we are living in a world of Godliness, conscious of a higher power and/or the responsibility we have to the larger world, the universe.

The last 18 months forced me to do a cheshbon hanefesh (inventory of the soul).  For the first time in my life, I lost my livelihood due to budget cuts and had to examine what I was really looking for professionally and personally. Status quo stopped working for me and I needed to dig deeply and decide what jazzes my soul, what compromises my values, and what I wanted in life.  While my sons are ages 18 and 21, I am still responsible for supporting them and giving them the wings they need to fly.  At the same times, I needed to figure out what I needed so that my entire being could flourish and succeed at the highest level.

So over the following 48 days, you will have a chance to read what is important to me, what I struggle with, and the work that I am doing to reach a myriad of goals.

I am a work in progress. My hope is to share the real me including blemishes, warts, and beauty within ever entry of My Journey Towards Wholeness. Being transparent isn’t easy, but I have been blessed with amazing women in my life who are also writers and artists; my hope is that they will keep me honest and remind me to let the fullness of my being emerge within my writing.

At this point, I’d l want to thank Randall Miller for the beautiful photo taken in one of the many lakes of Minnesota. This photo seems to be guiding me in the right direction. Randall’s photos always move my heart, but this photo has captured my heart. As someone who loves water, it is this photo that seems to be saying it is ok to float and tread water, but know that there is a lot of holy distance to travel.

Thank you for taking the time to join me in my journey.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – Carolyn Riker, my new friend and fellow blogger/writer, helped me find the name for my blog series.  I love that I have learned to ask for help over the past few years.

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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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Middah (character trait) focus: Listen to the quiet

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 me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

“”Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” 
~Maya Angelou’s last tweet from May 23,

When I was a little girl my father used to look into my eyes and put each hand on one of my ears and apply loving pressure.  As he did, he would whisper ‘Listen to the silence.”  I loved those peaceful moments.  When I had my own sons, my father reminded me of those moments and started doing it to each of my boys when they were just hours/days old.  Even today, I remember the warmth and the loving feeling that came over me.  I love how children always smile or relax when you hold their ears; it is so sweet.

Today I love the silence and the feeling that overcomes me when I am able to sit in the silence and appreciate the messages that surround me.  Even today I feel the warmth and loving feeling when I take a moment and listen to the silence.  Perhaps the warm feeling that washes over me is God’s energy or perhaps it is Godliness; either way I will welcome it.

May we each find a way to do that kind of listening, in that kind of quiet.

Listening to the quiet of the sunrise in Tucson. . .

Listening to the quiet of the sunrise in Tucson. . .

 

 

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Middah (character trait) focus: Build a Healthy Foundation

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

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 me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

During much of my life, I wanted to be fortified by people that could comfort me and protect me; I wanted to be surrounded by a cocoon of  beloveds.

Today as I was reflecting on the what it means to build a healthy foundation, I realized that each individual needs to independently build their own strong yesod, foundation; only by nurturing yourself can you have the power to go from slavery to freedom ultimately as a means to sustain and help one to become their highest self.  While each of us can gain support from those that surround us, we need to do some incredible work ourselves.

Building a healthy foundation means:

Breathe deeply, move frequently.
Nurture your soul, fuel your body.
Believe in yourself, reach for your dreams.
Do your part to repair the world and do it with all your heart.
Give yourself space to feel and to be.

Surround yourself with people that accept who you are.
Laugh and cry as you are called to do.
Listen to the words and the space between the words.
Love and be loved.
Trust in the universe and in the Godliness that is.

Inspiration for this blog came from Alden Solovy, a writer, a liturgist, a poet, and a Facebook friend.  Here is a link to his blog in which he honors Day 37 of the Omer http://tobendlight.com/2012/04/15/ethics/.

 

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Tonight we counted Day 48 of the Omer, which is 6 weeks and six days of the counting. Day 48 is referred to as Yesod sheh b’Malkhut,  Foundation within our kingdom.  A beautiful kingdom is one that is blessed with Shekhinah’s presence.  Only when God or godliness dwells where people are, is it possible for a malkhut or ’kingdom’ to exist.

There is absolutely no alternative for building a foundation or to continuously strengthening a foundation when you have a malkhut or kingdom.  Regardless of where you are your sanctuary needs to have the strongest foundation possible in order to thrive.  Twice this lesson was brought home to me today alone.  Once was when I experienced, quite possibly, my best yoga class ever.  The yoga instructor reinforced time and time again that without a strong foundation, you will hurt your body or any foundation that is part of your life.  The second example came from a list of 102 personal goals that I must have written for myself about 13-15 years ago when I lived in Atlanta.  So many of the goals have evolved to become the foundation that helped me become the person I am today.

Creating a foundation comes only when we live consciously, find balance, and engage in healthy choices.  Most everything we do has the ability to make a difference for good or for bad; making the choice to embrace the right choices is part of developing a strong foundation.  Living with the sensitivity that godliness matters can have a profound impact on life not only for us but for the world we live.

Foundations come with balance.

Foundations come with balance.

May each of us engage in the holy work of life by actively caring for ourselves and the world we live.

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Tonight we counted Day 45 of the Omer, which is 6 weeks and three days of the counting. Day 45 is referred to as Tiferet sheh b’Malkhut,  Beauty within our kingdom.  A beautiful kingdom is one that is blessed with Shekhinah’s presence.  Only when God or godliness dwells where people are, is it possible for a malkhut or ’kingdom’ to exist.

H.G. Wells said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  Different people will find different things beautiful.  For me, I tend to look both inside and outside of all people, situations, and environments.  The bottom-line is that intention matters.  Metaphorically and physically speaking, it matters how things appear.

May we each reach to find the beauty that surrounds us.

May we each reach to find the beauty that surrounds us.

When we weave together all the different aspects of a community, we can either find godliness or not depending on how we look at the world.  Generally speaking, I tend to find the beauty in most of what surrounds me, gifts within the challenges and light within the darkness.  With each step I take, I crave beauty and I look for ways to navigate the darkness that often emergences from life’s challenges.

This week alone, I found that my eyes were opened on at least three occasions when I initially saw things one way and then became enlightened.

  1. The first moment came when a man from Cleveland essentially rescued three women.  Initially I thought he was a low class, but then he suggested that a reward that he had been offered be given to the women who really needed it; he was fortunate enough to earn a paycheck.
  2. Yesterday, I went to a look at a yoga studio .  On the outside, it was really a more simple studio than I had ever seen.  Once I went inside today, I fell in love with the space and the energy that encompassed the entire environment.
  3. Tonight, I went walking with my son Aryeh, we saw two nice looking young men walking around, but then we saw them slow down and start really looking at the different houses.  While initially they seemed to be close friends or lovers on a stroll, they eventually looked like young men casing the neighborhood.  The beauty of the last scenario is that I was able to see past my initial vision and then to make a good choice by calling the local police who listened.

In each example, I could have gotten lost in my first impressions, but ultimately I saw things clearer and found a moment of godliness or maybe the shekhinah’s presence in what transpired.

May each of us be blessed to see Shekhinah’s presence or godliness as we walk on our way.

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Dovi and Aryeh enjoying their time together while playing backgammon.

Dovi and Aryeh enjoying their time together while playing backgammon.  May we all feel the shekhinah’s presence at home and when we walk on the way too.

Tonight we counted Day 43 of the Omer, which is 6 weeks and one day of the counting. Day 43 is referred to as Chesed sheh b’Malkhut,  Loving-kindness within our kingdom.  A beautiful kingdom is one that is blessed with Shekhinah’s presence.  Only when God or godliness dwells where people are, is it possible for a malkhut or ‘kingdom’ to exist in a healthy way.

By filling our lives with loving energy and then sharing it with others, we ultimately create an environment that radiates with the Shekhinah’s presence.   This cycle perpetuates itself to all facets of our personal lives and our communities too.

May we experience Shekhinah within us and wherever we travel too.

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