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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Polish-Slovakian border - Stephanie Randall

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

 

Elul* is a time for deep reflection.

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

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

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

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

Onward with love and light,
Chava

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

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There are few coincidences in life.

This morning, I woke up with a spring in my step. It didn’t matter that I am sick, what mattered is that I am being greeted by My Morning Pages.

For the last month, I have been finding my voice through what Julia Cameron refers to as Morning Pages. Each and every morning (ok, nearly every morning), I have woken up to write 3-6 pages of stream of consciousness writing.  By writing first thing in the morning, I refrain from filtering my thoughts; instead I allow my thoughs to simply flow without editing each sentence before it hits the paper.

This morning felt a little different that previous mornings because I found myself literally celebrating the power of what my morning pages have done for me and how I have grown since I started writing them a month ago.

Here is the synopsis:

  1. One month ago, I started writing my morning pages – after many years away from this practice.
  2. Two weeks ago, I added the practice of ending my morning pages by asking myself questions about how I would move forward from whatever I was navigating during a specific day. And then I would pick a Hope card (from BoneSighArts.com) and an Angel Card. On most days, the card I pick allows me to soar while feeling more grounded.
  3. One week ago, I had the inner strength to let go of a friendship that had broken my spirit and shattered  my heart. Somehow I found the grace to release the bond that had been holding tight for way too long.
  4. Since the beginning of writing my Morning Pages, I have been really sick three times. Through finding my authentic voice, I am finally being able to purge the toxicity that has been festering inside my body.
  5. On at least three different occasions, I have asked friends for what I need. And wow, I have felt so loved and supported.
  6. I am healing in ways I didn’t even know I needed to heal.
  7. Each morning, I start my day by drinking a couple of glasses of water and sometimes a smoothie. I love that I am nourishing my body at the same time I am nurturing my soul.

So while I have navigated some really hard stuff, I have also found a healthier place to live.

With each passing morning, I have found that I am taking better care of myself in more ways that via my writing. I have been painting furniture, cooking good food, taking longer walks more frequently, and chanting.  I am also allowing myself to go inward more and accepting that I can’t talk to everyone, but I have been sending cards to my beloved friends.

Conscious reflection is adding so much more to my life. I am taking time to see the gifts and the challenges. And more often than not I am finding the gifts within the challenges.

There are many mornings, when I have started my Morning Pages with deep pain at the core of my being, but ended my writing time with a calm and peaceful heart. They are grounding me and allowing me to literally grow my roots and become spiritually stronger.

While it may seem that I am more raw or sick more often, in actuallity I am allowing myself to be more of what I am.

The chameleon in me has slowly stopped fitting in quite the same way; I have learned to say what I need and what I want. I have learned to share my deepest dreams, my hopes for the future, and my innermost thoughts.

Sometimes my thoughts and feelings are embraced and sometimes it is obvious that friends and community would rather I stop approaching the world with such an open heart. But what I have come to learn is that I am so much happier being transparent. I don’t have to walk alone and close my intensity off from the world.

One of the best parts of this transformation is that I am not sure that I need anyone’s approval now. Maybe I am only able to say that because I really do have several different pockets of friends that value me for the person I am. With that reality, I have come to a better place and I am having an easier time.

Oct 20 - sunrise Pantano Wash
I love where I am now – professionally, spiritually, and personally. And I am a work in progress; I am a seeker. So I am constantly stretching, growing, and navigating new paths. And with each new path, I am surrounded by beloveds.

My Morning Pages journey has helped me to find  more calmness and inner peace with who I am. I am living by the values that I so strongly believe. Confirmation came to me when I found  these two wonderful saying in the last few days:

To tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin
to love yourself,value yourself. And that’s
political, in the most profound way.
June Jordan

~ ~ ~

and the universe listened. 
Terri St. Cloud

There is a huge shift taking hold;. I am AWAKENING in every way.

Politically, I speak my mind.
Spiritually, I share my soul.
Consciously, I live my life.

I have found my voice and I now live in a world that I can be me – totally me.
How awesome is that?!?!?!

Onward!
Now & Always,
Chava

Note: OK, I do bite my tongue when I find out someone likes Donald Trump or Binyamim Netanyahu because I have decided, for the most part, that anything I say would not penetrate their skull. If you like either of these two characters, chances are you are probably not part of my inner circle. So, why spend too much time trying to enlighten you. I don’t need to talk just to hear myself heard.

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This Photo of Philadelphia Tunnels/Doorways is given by courtesy of my beloved friend and fellow writer Wicca Davidson. I love how she captured this view. Wow.

This Photo of Philadelphia Tunnels/Doorways is given by courtesy of my beloved friend and fellow writer Wicca Davidson. I love how she captured this view. Wow.

Life is beautiful; life is also hard and messy.

Sometimes we look at people and we forget that inside their soul lies many layers of complicated thoughts and feelings, life experiences with sparks of pain and light, some on the surface and so many more on the layers that lie beneath what you see.  None of us know what is happening or has happened beyond the scope of what we see.

This Shabbat, we read the story of creation from this week’s parsha, weekly Torah reading. If you have ever followed this story, you know that all of creation started with darkness.  What a profound metaphor, only after we face the darkness can life or light emerge.

At the moment, I am considering this metaphor in a myriad of ways.  Besides the creation story, life often evolves from dark. The list is endless. All of us started in the womb, caterpillars spin a silky cocoon before they can emerge as a butterfly, seeds take root in the soil before they sprout, and life’s messiness sometimes leads to beautiful gifts (and sometimes not). What all of these things have in common is that so much is happening below the surface.

Yesterday nurtured my intense spirit as profoundly as I have seen in recent times.  And throughout each and every step of the day, I kept finding myself reflecting.

Things are not always what they seem.

As I sat at the memorial service for a 28 year old man who walked into interstate traffic without making it past all lanes of traffic, I realized that there was so much more to this story than I could have known by watching the news or even understood before knowing the fuller story. While some of you will judge this story based on your own experiences, you should know that appearances may be different than reality. And in this case, there is no doubt that what the average person would ‘see’ is far from what was.  May this man’s family and loved ones find solace in his memory being for a blessing. After hearing his siblings and his father speak, I have no doubt that that is exactly what will be.

And then I came home to find the eulogy of a 15 year old who committed suicide. As I read my friend’s eulogy, my heart broke open wide. So often we see what’s in front of us, but if our eyes are not open wide, we miss the entire story.

Every person has a role in the world we live. As a mother, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a human being, I know this. As someone who was a daughter, a wife, and a friend to many that I have lost, I know this even more. It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a universe to make sure the child makes it to adulthood or at least it feels that way. And through our lives, it takes compassion and grace to support those we love and to receive what is offered too.

Things are not always what they seem.

When I look at a long and winding road. I treasure the beauty and notice the flowers, the bridges, the terrain, the wildlife.  I may even notice the tractors, the cars, or the people I pass.  But what I don’t know is what colored that beauty. Did someone die on that road? Did a flood or fire once leave the land barren? Did someone’s heart break when their beloved partner of 20 years told them that their relationship was over. All I know is what I see, that’s it.

In the last several years, I have been fascinated with Facebook. Some people believe that they know who I am based on my posts. Perhaps they are correct, perhaps not. My guess is that those who only use my facebook status lines to know how I am are only getting part of the story. I am far too intense to share my heart and soul so deeply. And in all honesty, I am quite private too.

Things are not always what they seem.

Yesterday, I learned what it means to look a little deeper. Since all creation can be messy, I know that I have to get down and messy with it. I have to plant the seeds, by playing in the dirt; paint a picture, by painting lots of mistakes before my skills emerge or a masterpiece is created; by kneading the dough before it makes yummy bread; and by writing poorly before I can write coherently at worst and meaningful at best.

Each and every day that I am alive reinforces what I already know. ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’.  As hard as it is, take the time to dig deeper and forge beautiful connections. Find out what is happening deep inside, so that you can really understand what you see on the outside.

May light follow as it did in creation. May humankind find peace in our lifetime.

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Truth

Last night, as I closed my eyes, my mind started to focus on the role of truth in our lives.

With that two Jewish teachings popped into my mind.

Teaching One

The world stands on three things:
on justice, on truth, and on peace.
Mishna, Avot 1:18

and

Teaching Two

Truth vs Falsehood
אֱמֶת ושֶׁקֶר

“The Talmud (104a) finds great significance in the form and order of the Hebrew alphabet, devoting nearly a page to understanding the symbolism behind the order and design of the alphabet. The most famous of these passages is the analysis of the Hebrew words for truth and falsehood, emet and sheker. The base of the letters (aleph mem taav) of emet is solid, while the letters of sheker (shin kuf reish) are wobbly, having only one “leg” each. Furthermore, the letters of sheker are the 21st, 19th and 20th letters respectively; whereas emet has the first, last, and middle letters of the alphabet. While one may have to look for truth, truth is true everywhere; whereas lies, readily available, have to be constantly updated for each new situation.”
By Rabbi Jay Kelman in http://bit.ly/1ExqL1c

Both teachings focus on the significance of truth within our lives.  Balance really is much easier to find when you focus on living a life a truth.  I love that Judaism surrounds me with teachings that support the act of living consciously.  And I am fortunate that in this moment it supports what I intuitively believe around truth vs falsehood….Jewish teachings don’t always work so easily. 🙂

Making Truth vs Falsehood Personal

Throughout my life I have experienced deception on so many levels both big and small.  Sometimes it is as simple as navigating half-truths or silence; sometimes it is as complicated as denial or downright lies.  But as I move into what could be the second half of my life, I realize that I want to live in a place of authenticity and grace regardless of where I stand.

In my life, I have, like many of us, been known for being silent or sharing only half truths and I have experienced the same realities from those in my life.  As I move forward in my life, I crave people that inspire transparency and allow me the space to be transparent.  Whether friend or lover, employer or employee, I want to be surrounded with people that don’t need to hide behind half-truths or downright lies. I also want to be the person that can hear both what is being said and what is not being said.

Trusting my heart to receive the truth and to share the truths will only happen as I develop a practice that is worthy of such a life. In order to make trust an integral part of my life, I need to first make practice a conscious one. I prefer to choose to live with integrity and surround myself with those that live in a place with a similar practice.

When considering Teaching One (see above), I find myself faced with a question.  How can we have justice, truth, and peace with each interaction? We can’t – of course.  Justice and truth do not always leave us with a sense of peace.  Dealing with truth and sometimes justice can be hard.  Our feelings are a huge variable in this journey.  And what feels good to one isn’t necessarily good for others.  Ugh!

Lately, I have been considering the role of true friends in my life.  I am actively trying to find a way to navigate those that really see things in a way that I find, quite honestly, sick.  How can they be close friends if their values or thought processes make me extremely uncomfortable.  Recently, a childhood friend became furious with me because of an article I posted on Facebook.  In truth, this person is sort of like family. I shouldn’t have been happy to have her out of my Facebook life, but I was thrilled!  We all have own truths, our own ways of seeing things.  And sometimes, I just don’t want to debate or to hear the other side. . . I have to, how else will I learn?  Sigh. Balance. . .always working towards finding balance.

When you don’t like how someone thinks, it is really challenging to navigate a warm relationship in which peace can grow.  There is no way that someone can convince me that that certain politics makes sense.  PERIOD. I don’t understand how people shop at Walmart when they don’t need to. Why would anyone that understands slave labor purchase products that support such practices.  And if I have to silence my passions, can I be in a place of truth within a friendship.  In the same way that each of us have our own truths, each of us also have to choose how to live and to make decisions based on our values.  Aren’t we all evolving?

I am struggling.

And since I am already a little cranky about how to connect with people when I dislike some of their values and belief systems, why not explore another challenging aspect of my struggle with truth.

I am learning; I am growing.

Not everyone feels the need to share their soul or raw energy as openly as I do – that has to be ok.  I am blessed with so many different types of people in my world and not all of them walk in the world as I do.  Just because someone chooses not to share the entire picture, doesn’t mean they are speaking a half-truth or falsehood.  Does it?

Close relationships may be the perfect place to hold back just a little.  Do we really need to fully express our feelings to those closest to us? As a mother, I wonder.  Part of helping my sons to develop into secure adults is by allowing them the room to express themselves without me needing to influence them.  With them, I am learning to say that I think it is best for me to refrain from sharing my thoughts at this time so that they can best figure out their thoughts for themselves.  But what about a partner or a spouse, sometimes we feel like we need to know everything, but other times people need their space.

The key to all interactions is realizing your non-negotiables, what aren’t you willing to be flexible about. Finding balance is not as easy as always being in truthful place, but to me I keep seeking to find the best way to navigate with others; I need to cultivate the solid footing that comes with walking the path of אֱמֶת, truth. Perhaps what I need is to hold myself with transparency and grace, then I can hope to surround myself with those that do the same.

Relationships are so complicated.

“The Universe doesn’t like secrets.
It conspires to reveal the truth, to lead you to it.”
― Lisa Unger, Beautiful Lies

May truth emerge in each and every human interaction.

 

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Middah (character trait) focus: Moving forward with grace

Wondering if this is graceful. . . .

Wondering if this is graceful. . . .

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.

I am a person who acknowledges who I am and what my intentions are; I attempt to always walk forward with both integrity and transparency.  At times, it isn’t easy to walk as I do, but it is a part of me.  At the same time, I journey towards peace (both inner and outer peace).  While the journey is sometimes difficult, in the end, each step propels me towards a more authentic life allowing me to be impactful for good.

Making an impact for good is profoundly important to me.  Those of you that know me personally, know that I sometimes offend people with my directness; I am honest and intense in how I walk in this world. While I may offend people, it is often because of how I grapple with what I see not because I want to make others uncomfortable.  And I am also a loving human being that thrives on positive interactions and sweet connections.

With that in mind, I have chosen to navigate my latest journey in the most graceful way I know how.  (We all have our journeys, don’t we?) My hope is that I hold myself in a positive way.  I love life, I love the people that I have chosen and that have chosen me for their world.  I connect with people whether I walk in a store, on a mountain, on the sidewalks next to a busy street; I couldn’t make these connections if I didn’t embrace life as I do.

Deep anger and dark energy would not make me approachable in any way.  I love being the person that touches people with my warmth and smile; I can’t imagine being any other way.  That doesn’t mean that I am not sad right now; I am struggling with taking care of my family financially and how I will transition if I have to move.  And guess what – it really is about finances and I believe that as long as my family does what it needs to do that we will land on our feet even if I have to ask for help.  Moving forward with grace is about focusing on the many positives and not harping on what was.  Each step of my journey has been full of open doors.  Sometimes the doors are open briefly and sometimes the doors are wide open for a lifetime.  I need to see the world as being full of opportunities; I need to concentrate on the good; and I need to move forward by doing all that needs to be done with a gentleness within me.

And with every step, I need to remember that my family is blessed with good health, loving friends and a ‘can do’ attitude.  We will be ok for sure and probably even great in just a short time.

With all of this in mind – May I move forward with grace – now and always.

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Arms spread

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.

Middah (character trait) focus:  Grace

Gracefulness has been defined to be the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.  William Hazlitt

Job loss coupled a feeling of displacement has knocked me a little off kilter; in reality I can’t just settle for these feeling, I must listen to the messages that surround me.

Yesterday, I received two messages on one of my Facebook status lines; both were gifts.  While they appear to be similiar in nature, they also appear to be opposite.  The first one blessed me with grace and strength as I navigate my current challenges; the second one shared “that I have I have an amazing gift for grace and strength.”  What I heard in these two messages is that while I may sometimes have grace and strength, I still have to engage in the spiritual work that makes further developing and maintaining them possible.

This reminds me of the Talmudic teaching that everyone should have two pockets each containing a piece of paper.  One piece of paper should say that the world was created just for me; on the other piece of paper it should say that I am but dust and ashes.

As we walk in the world, may I remember that grace means to always put my best foot forward even when I navigate life’s challenges.

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StumblePartOfDance

Life is full of journeys.  Each day we take a step and then another.  When we are lucky we find the footing and then there are other times when we don’t.  Every step matters, some matter more than others, but they matter just the same.

Lately I am trying real hard to embrace the Dance of Emergence.  So much is happening within me and around me.  Some days I wake up in fear of where the next step will lead me; and then I push through the fear and do what I need to do.  I take one step and then another.  Other days, I wake up seriously excited about the infinite possibilities, the doorways to new opportunities.

Transition has a way of making me walk in circles as I navigate the world around me.  There is so much to consider as I seek a full time job.  The good news is that I have decided to honor myself as I focus on finding positions that will ultimately fuel my soul and allow me the room to create.  In the meantime, I worry about having the money I need during this time of transition.  I worry and then I take a deep breath and do what I have to do – so far so good.   I can still parent.

There are days that my steps are far from firm, but it doesn’t really matter.  I am a fortunate soul; I find a way to find joy in what is.  Sometimes I celebrate the dance of grace and sometimes I celebrate the dance of creativity.  Other times I stumble or simply fall; on those days I might curl up in a ball and cry.  Crying is part of the dance – everything I do is part of the journey.  And so is wiping off the tears and finding the gifts within the challenges.

In the Dance of Emergence, every step counts, even if you think you are just stumbling. . . . .

 

Regardless

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