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Posts Tagged ‘Hineini’

Sometimes life hurts. There is no way around this reality. The question is not whether or not we will hurt, the question is how will we walk through the storms?

Turning my wounded heart towards living out loud has been my soul work.  Except for the times that my loved ones needed me to focus, I have always shown up in any way I can. I simply open my arms and do what needs to be done. There are a myriad of tasks that need my love and attention. Our country, my neighbors, my friends, my family, and our world.

In the last month alone I have:

  • taken care of a sick friend recovering from a double mastectomy.
  • called our politicians.
  • visited with friends who needed a pick-me-up.
  • picked up trash.
  • given mezuzot, ritual objects, to those who lost their homes to disasters.
  • mailed chai (life) clothes to people who were suffering.
  • wrote politicians as well as blogs and Facebook posts to make people think about things differently.
  • helped rebuilt a house destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.
  • donated money to several causes.
  • watched two different friends puppies so that they wouldn’t have to board them.
  • helped a friend who professionally needed the guidance.
  • rallied/resisted against Trump’s policies that allowed for children to be torn from their parents’ arms.
  • tried to help a young woman reunite with her son and find a stable home.

Did I miss the mark in different areas? I’m sure. But the point is that I have chosen to live differently as an adult than what I experienced and saw in my youth.

For me, my life challenges seemed to have been ingrained on a cellular level. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the moment of my conception was what started the train wreck that has often overshadowed me and in truth it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that on most days I have navigated life’s journey and embraced the hand that showed up. While I am not sure that I had a choice, from a young age I seem to have decided to wake up each day and take one step and then another.

Although there are moments when I wish that things could have been different, they weren’t.  For the most part, I have reached this time in my life and found a way to absorb the blessings reverberating from my soul.

Living out loudI am alive. I am thriving. And I have emerged to be the woman I am today.

Thriving or simply surviving has not always been a given. At each and every stage of my life, I faced some harsh realities. If it weren’t for my inner strength, I may have found myself devastated or worse destroyed.

I’ve been battered both physically and spiritually; I have seen violence and watched my children navigate ICU on multiple occasions and even sat by their bedsides expecting that no tomorrows would ever come. And yet they did come.

My heart has been shattered and sometimes trampled beyond recognition. And yet somehow I have found my breath. I have learned to inhale the light and exhale the pain and darkness. And nearly every time I needed, an angel showed up to make a difference in both small and large ways.

Much of my life, I have felt like I was rock climbing up extremely treacherous terrain. The only problem with that is that I was born with two left feet; I am a total klutz in every way.  The fabulous news is that even as I have struggled to find a healthy place to stand, I’ve have always found the solid ground I was seeking.

With my past as a guiding force, I find meeting new people challenging. My life is full of skeletons that are harsh for any person to absorb. Yet each and every story has opened doors for me and made me the woman I am. Instead of wearing a mask, I want to touch people as I transcend the darkness with my resiliency. And I want to take what I have learned from all the pain that has hammered my life and bring light into the world; in as many was as possible, I want to make our world a better place.

Today, I allow myself to ‘live out loud’. I share my thoughts, my pain, my politics, my soul.  I share my writing, my art, and my spirit without apology. Today I climb mountains and accept the fact that I may fall. I know that I am surrounded by my sons and other loved ones. I am not alone.

My inner wise soul has turned life’s monsoons into the vibrant beauty that often follows a storm. Instead of hiding behind the shadows, I have actively chosen to ‘live out loud’ in every aspect of my life by loving deeply and engaging in the world is what drives my spirit.

Hineini, here I am!

 

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Waking up
I breathe deeply to check in with my soul.
Am I alive? I mean, am I REALLY alive?
Can I move my body? Am I ready to do my ‘Dance of Emergence’?
Is my spirit ready for the day? Will today be a day for soaring, simply navigating, or crashing?

I love fully – always too fully.
Listening to the rhythm of the earth and all her inhabitants impacts me deeply
Chaos reigns
Values don’t make sense
The struggle to navigate makes breathing hard.
But then the angels appear. . .the angels always appear.

The world is challenging for someone who walks like me.
And yet,
every day I open my arms wide
reaching for the world I love
I say
Hineini
I am here to serve.

This is my journey in life.

When I give my smile or share my spirit, it is real. And when I feel grounded and safe in that connection I want it to last forever. Only it rarely does.

Over the years, I have learned that I am too intense for the world I live.  But instead of hiding behind what my gut feels, I honor myself by adhering to the words of Emile Zola, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: “I am here to live out loud.”

This means that I show up to connect with friends, for meetings, political gatherings, or even the March For Our Lives as I did today. I show up even when I’d rather be in a quieter place. I also choose when I allow for the quiet, when I go into my own space so that I can create, daydream, or simply nurture my spirit.

Chava from behind with kippahFinding balance takes work. I say and do the things that jazz my soul, but also have the possibility of making a difference. I do this as a Jewish educator, a woman, an activist, a friend, a mother, a writer, and a  human being.

Living in the universe as I do means that I climb a lot of mountains only to stumble to keep my footing.  It also means that there are times I reach great heights and soar when I least expect it. The many moving parts of the world are relentless.

I pray with my feet as often as I can, never hiding who I am or what I believe.  At the same time, I am a seeker who chants, drums, meditates, and dreams. I am also an introvert that most people believe is an extrovert.

Actively living in the world and spending so much time navigating my work, my passions, my loved ones, and life has taken its toll. While I will keep my arms and heart open wide, I also struggle to find, to build, and to maintain sweet connections with those that consciously walk in the world. This has become a non-negotiable over the last several years.

I wasn’t always this way. In fact, I am not sure when it changed.

While I have always walked as I loved our world with all of the gifts and challenges that it brings, I used to care with a bit more detachment. And then about 20 years ago, something inside of me changed. I am not sure of the particular event or a triggered memory. But suddenly I couldn’t turn off my feelings with ease.  I wanted to learn more, do more, be more. Slowly I came to understand that I may never learn enough, do enough, be enough.

As a little girl, my mother truly believed I was limited. And as I grew, I believed that too. I hid behind good grades and a passion for learning, but I wasn’t able to absorb what was happening like other kids. I wasn’t articulate or good in math. I couldn’t remember the finer details of anything.  Over time, I learned to do the best I could do, but I wanted to do so much more. I wanted the capacity to synthesize all that I was learning into action and sharing for good.  I wanted to make a difference with my wisdom; I wanted to touch the world in huge ways.

Life took over. I learned to do what I could do. When something needed to be done, I did it. I always did what was asked of me. In my family, in my work, and in my community, I was the solid one. If you needed anything, I would show up and take care of things – and always with a smile.

Eventually, I started looking past the village that I was living. Ouch. Slowly, I dipped my toe into the larger world, the world outside myself. First, a homeless, pregnant woman with a toddler came to live with my family for nearly six months. That was the beginning of me realizing that there was so much to do. The more I learned, the more I realized that I just couldn’t do enough. EVERYTHING was calling to me – the environment, homelessness, the need to protect those that couldn’t protect themselves, and then the policies of Israel became more than I could bare to see/hear/read. Human rights, the environment, politics – everything mattered. Only I couldn’t do enough to make the world a better place. I still can’t. So I take one step and then another – knowing it is all a little too inadequate. But still, it is my job do what I can.

The last few years have been a time for learning and accepting the realities of not only my life, but the world I live. I’ve struggled to come to grips with how I walk in the world. I am blessed to be able to open my arms and do just a little for the family, community, and world that I love. I know that my smile and my warmth makes a difference – sometimes. But I also know that deep inside, I know that I am not done yet, I have more to do! I am not enough because I am not able to keep up with the world I live as I’d like. I am limited. With so much to absorb, I can’t make sense of it all.

  • How can we create a world with racial and economic equality?
  • How can the countries I love care so poorly for all of their inhabitants?
  • What can we learn from science to make our environment safer for all? Why does big business and the government continue to literally destroy the fabric or our world?
  • Guns – WTF should be done? AND what truths make sense? 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida; more are still struggling with their lives. People of color are at a disproportionately greater risk for violence – always.
  • How can our government have so many people that believe that hatred and white supremacy should be a guiding message?
  • Wasn’t our country made with immigrants? YET, all over the country, beautiful people are forced to rally and chant, “No Hate! No Fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”
  • We are so far away from taking care of the world we live in. Homelessness, veterans, domestic violence, animal cruelty, and ___________ – You fill in the blank. How can we do what we need to do in order to improve the world for our people?
  • . . . .and so much more.

With so much that needs to be done, I am not where I want to be, but the message I am hearing in my head is clear.  While I may not feel like I am enough, I am doing a little bit every day. AND on a good day, I do a lot more. Continuing the holy work of rolling up my sleeves is no option; there is still too much to do.  I may not feel like I am enough, but that doesn’t mean that I should stop doing what I am doing. And yes, I do realize that it is time for me to reframe my inner critic; I know I have some work to do.

MeFueling my spirit, I will continue on this journey. I will do what I can and eventually as I keep taking one step and then another, I will believe that I am enough.

My work, my writing, my beautiful nonprofit, and my warmth need to be my focus. So I will continue to do what I do best, wake up every morning with my arms and heart wide open. I show up. I am here. Hineini.

With love, light, hope, and blessings,
Chava

(Note: This rambling piece is following the amazing March For Our Lives which inspired me in every way, but also left me in a pool of tears. I wish their wasn’t still so much to do and yet, there are so many angels stepping up to do the work.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have a problem. I am an addict!!! I just can’t get enough of that white powdery substance. . . .SUGAR.

With this in mind I decided to begin a new health journey  and ask for support from my friends. I did this once before and it lasted for over six years ago; the great news is that I have kept 65 lbs. off, but now I need to go back to the choices I made back then.

The good news is that all of those healthy changes made a difference and now it is time for me to begin again.

Hineini, Here I am!!

Today I started prepping for my latest health journey. Instead of counting 45 days until my 45th birthday, I am counting 21 days of healthier eating, aka no sugar. My hope is that at the end of 21 days, I will start another health journey while remaining steadfast on refraining from sugar too.

Over and over again, I have heard that it takes 21 days to create new habits. So here is the first habit I will be working to change – NO SUGAR!

Making 21 Countdown chartIn preparation for today, I made a fun little check off chart. I did this for two reasons. One, I needed to create a ritual/visualization around checking off the days. Two, I wanted a prop to share my thinking about this journey.

As a sugar addict, I need to own that part of my personality and look for ways to make better choices.

AND here is the ask, please celebrate my successes and support me through my challenges. If this isn’t comfortable for you, simply ignore me. 🙂

Transformation needs to happen. Being healthy is literally a non-negotiable.  So tonight at sundown, I will officially begin my 21 day countdown.  I will share my journey via Facebook and my blog.

Don’t hesitate to ask me how I am doing. Your mentioning it won’t sabotage the work; in fact, it will probably help me remember that I am not alone!

l’Chayim, to life,

Chava

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with
your one wild and precious life.”
– “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

July - sun 1

Reflection Time Selfie

Each morning, I wake up and ask myself how I will walk through my day.  And each and every day, the answer is pretty much the same. I want to be a light with every step I take.

Now this isn’t as easy as it sounds. What does it mean to be a light? And what do I have to do to get there?

The second question is easier to answer, so I will start with that. In order to be a light to anyone I have to be a light to myself. That means before I reach out to the world around me, I have to go inward and care for my body, my mind, and my soul.  If I don’t take care of me, how can I be authentic with others?

Writing, listening to the others’ wisdom, moving and eating right are key. On a really good day, I will chant, meditate, or drum.  And on a great day, I will do it all! Breathing deeply and living mindfully takes an open heart and a willing spirit.

In fact, most of what I try to do is to live consciously. My entire being craves a conscious life. I want to live with integrity and authenticity.  So for the most part, I do that. AND every day I am learning, stretching, and growing. I am working to be the best me I can be.

Only after I navigate inward can I take an excursion outward.

So to answer the first question:  What does it mean to be a light?

A ready smile greets nearly every person I meet. I have a drive to touch people’s lives in positive ways. This feeling has emanated so deeply that years ago I even changed my last name to Gal-Or, wave of light.

Life has taught me that some of my best plans and my most amazing intentions need to altered due to reality.

When my older son was a teenager, he was plagued with a life and death journey which took over our family’s entire lives for over three and a half years. This meant that everything in my world changed over night and stayed that way until one day I realized he was thriving again!

Shortly after that episode, I woke up to a joyous pitter-patter in my heart. With an overwhelming realization, I realized that I am alive and ready to serve others again. Hineini! I am here!!

While I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, I slowly began to realize that the years of hell inspired me to live a little more like there may be no tomorrow. With that came a new zest for life and a deep passion in my kishka, my guts. Over the coming days, months, and years, that passion has become part of my life force.

Returning back to the Mary Oliver quote above, I have grown to trust where my heart and soul take me. Living a conscious life means that I have work to do not only for myself, but for others.

With each step I take in the world, I really do it with the best intention. That doesn’t mean it is always received with open arms, but it does mean that I am standing in the integrity that is part of my core essence.

Sharing my thoughts and values is the only way I know to inspire change and to empower others. That doesn’t mean that I am always right or that I don’t frustrate or anger those who feel differently. Everyday, I am challenged to stand in the light even when it isn’t easy.

With views that are often off the beaten path or different from mainstream thinking, I have to negotiate the world with kindness. I also have to make sure that I am educated and thoughtful as I navigate conversations and writing. And sometimes, I have to receive the passion of others.

While passion isn’t always full of light, my work is be the light and always remember that I want every “wild and precious day” to live consciously and thoughtfully.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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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 . . . .]

Thich-Nhat-Hanh-mindfulness-Quotes-Walk-as-if-you-are-kissing-the-Earth-with-your-feet

Every step we take matters.

Living in the world means that we need to take responsibility for how our lives affect the larger universe.  Good choices can create positive outcomes.

To me, there is no question about this.

Years ago a friend tried to convince me that our choices didn’t really make a difference to the larger world.  At the time I didn’t quite know what to say.  As a scientist or an engineer, I know that he knew what he was talking about. Or at least, he understood the realities better than I. While his views never resonated with me, I learned to be silent or to simply ask for clarification.

Today, I understand that each decision we make has the power to make a positive difference. Collective empowerment and collective responsibility counts. . .a group has more power than an individual. But without that one person that inspires us to think and make healthy choices, we may never be able to succeed in making this world a better place.

My job is to make the best choices I can make.

With this in mind, I really consider the ways that I can be more conscious of how I walk in the world by considering my carbon footprint with each action.

  1. How much water am I using when I do the dishes or the laundry, shower, and/or brush my teeth?
  2. How far do I have to travel by car? If I have to go the distance, can I combine errands so that I don’t have to make that trek twice or three times in a short proximity? Can I walk or ride my bike?
  3. How much trash and recycling am I creating? Can I use more whole foods so that I use less packaging or better yet no packaging?
  4. Do I turn off lights? air conditioning? heat? Do I put on extra layers of clothing instead of turning on the heat? Do I take off as much clothing as possible instead of putting on the air conditioning?
  5. Have you ever considered hanging your laundry to dry instead of using a dryer.

There is always so much to consider.  The above list is only a beginning of what we can consider to lessen our carbon footprint.

In Judaism, it is incumbent for us to do our to preserve human life, pikuach nefesh (Hebrew: פיקוח נפש) in the best ways we can.

Hineini, here I am. Will you join me in doing the best you can?

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – In the coming months, I will be moving to Houston.  🙂 So, at one point, yesterday, someone who was asked to help me find a house assumed that if I wanted to live within walking distance to the congregation I will be working for that I must be Orthodox.  Once I realized this. . .I started to giggle.  While that would have once been true, I sure have evolved a ton over the past years.  Today’s focus is minimizing my carbon footprint.

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Hineini – Here I Am

Hineini

Each of you has something in your lives that move you to the core.  I am not so bold to think that everyone follows one derekh (path), but you do follow your own path.  Maybe you are active in your family/friends, spirituality, social consciousness, reading/writing, learning, music, sports, etc. My hope is that something jazzes your soul.

On a personal level, I have been considering my differing roles as a mother, wife, friend, Jewish educator, spiritual being, and socially conscious person. Often I find myself asking what it means to be involved in the larger world, the world outside my body, outside of my immediate family, and outside my work.  Two questions come to my mind quite frequently:

1.    What do you want from me?

2.    How can I serve you?

When I say you, I am speaking to the larger universe outside of myself. And the answer that comes to mind always is HINEINI (Here I AM).  So much so that it January I ordered that single word to be on my license plate. (A good friend of mine, Melissa Schaffer wrote a chant with these two questions and the response Hineini. She should get credit creating a chant that I find myself utilizing quite frequently.)

We are all parts of many communities, our families, our work, our interests, our children’s schools and interests (if we have children).  Sometimes we take the sideline and let others take leadership roles, but someone has to take the leadership roles or the communities we are part of disintegrate over time.

Knowing that your voice is important can be empowering, but it can also add challenges.  Our lives our busy, but our communities can only thrive if you step up to the plate at some point and get involved.

As I go into the holiday Passover, I am wondering how I can best step up to the plate, but I know that whenever the opportunity arises, I will say:

Hineini, Here I am!

Where are you?

With love and light,

Chava

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