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“If you ask me what I came into this life to do,
I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”
Quote by Émile Zola

Twenty years ago, this saying became an unspoken mantra. A part of me believes that finding this quote empowered me find my voice as woman,  a mother, a friend, a teacher, and mostly as a creative soul that needed to be heard.

Before that time, silence seemed to permeate the core of my being.  And then one day, I woke up and I found a little more of my voice. I learned to write after a very long and painful hiatus. A local magazine wanted to publish the story of our son Dovi’s miraculous adoption. Somehow I found the courage to speak up and let the publisher/editor know that I was the one who needed to write this story; she loved the idea and with that I found my first and most gentle editor. Eventually that story was picked up by a couple of other magazines.

Finding my voice was a long but beautiful journey. With each step, I felt like a butterfly opening to the world with a sense of awe. I literally fluttered from flower to flower. Each flower gave me just a little more nectar to fuel the journey towards self.

And then in 2002, I took a giant leap of faith and left the cocoon of the Orthodox world that I had lived for nearly fifteen years. The journey was lonely and overwhelming. I lost close friends in that transition or should I say transformation? But I did it!!! I listened to the voice that nudged me to create a new life for myself (and eventually my family) and to find a new home for my spirit to rest. It didn’t go far; I found a home in a progressive Jewish community that nurtured my spirit and grounded me in tradition while allowing my creative energy to flourish.

As time progressed, I started to stretch in other ways too. I started thriving as an educator, a blogger, an artist, a chanter, a storyteller, a drummer, a mother, and today as an activist or maybe just a human being. The more I grow the more my spirit yearns to expand my roots as I also reach into the universe that surrounds me.

Now that I have my voice, I embrace all of life with more passion. When I am happy I sing out loud regardless of who is close by; when I feel the need to write, I stop what I am doing and I write; when a picture comes into my head I doodle it. The more doors open, the more ready I am to receive the gifts that continue to flow through me.

A raw intensity has taken over the quiet person that once lived in my body.  My soul gravitates towards life. I am alive and I crave this aliveness that emanates from all life forces.

Sun rise New Zealand May 5 Jai-Jagdeesh

Photo Courtesy of Jai-Jagdeesh via Instagram: jaijagdeesh

This New Zealand sunrise by my “social media friend” left me with tears in my eyes. I found Jai-Jagdeesh through her music, but today I have fallen love with her words, her wisdom, her photos. My hope is that one day have the opportunity to experience Kundalini Yoga with her as my teacher. (Of course, I may have to wait until I complete my healing journey from back surgery.) When I hear her, I feel a fire igniting me towards  self-care and tikun olam (repairing the world).

Meanwhile a heartfelt hug reminds me that the void of love I experienced as a child is no longer with me. When any of my nieces or nephews say “I love you” even though I haven’t seen the since they were little. . .I melt inside, but feel immense gratitude that my beloved brother and sister-in-law have kept me alive in their eyes.

Nothing in my world is taken for granted.

The more authentic and grounded I become, the I am able to “live out loud” and to love.

Always Healing

Picture by Chava

Today, I openly love with ever fiber of my being.  I often wonder if I take in the world on a cellular level. When I allow myself to breathe deeply, I find myself connecting with all that I see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. All of my senses are more alive than I could have once imagined.

While love may sometimes change, I love deeply; I love forever. . . My intensity overflows each and every time I see those I adore.

And I have learned to always speak from the deepest part of my soul just in case a door closes suddenly. ….because doors do close suddenly and without warning.

May I be blessed to always “live out loud” with an authenticity that rooted in grace.

Namaste (May the spirit in me honor the spirit in you),
Chava

Note: This entire blog was inspired by:

Love Openly. . .you never know

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david-steinerSometimes we are blessed to meet people who inspire us to be the best people that we can be. You know those people that know just when to call regardless of what is going on in their own personal life. Or maybe the person that understands that in order to make a change in the world they have to be that change. Or maybe that person is someone who knows what they have to do in order to stretch, to grow, to evolve – and does the work! Or perhaps, the person is a dreamer who never stops going after his dreams.

David Steiner was that person and now he is gone. Killed doing what he has done first the first day I met him in 1982 when we were in Kfar HaYarok, a kibbutz style high school in Israel; he died touching people’s lives and making a difference. He died in Uganda while on a beautiful mission of his own creating. If you want to know more, here is an initial link that can lead you to more information. (http://abc7chicago.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-killed-in-uganda-crash/1673697/ and http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-david-steiner-killed-in-uganda-bus-crash/http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-david-steiner-killed-in-uganda-bus-crash/)

David and I lost touch after I left Kfar HaYarok, we weren’t initially close as teens, but he was someone who could light up any room he entered. Even as a teen, he stood for what he believed in and did the work that needed to be done.  In fact, one of my favorite memories of him was when he worked in the refet, with the cows. If memory serves me correctly, he woke up really early to take care of his calves and then was there whenever the mamas were birthing their babies.  David was always where he needed to be.

One of the clearest memories I have of David is that he made every person feel like they counted. And I do not believe that ever changed. Even when we re-connected about six years ago, he became present and available like no time had ever passed. He was so much better than I was at keeping in touch and managing his life.

In this moment, I am devastated for his loved ones and for all of us that at one time or another were touched by David’s presence in this world. I feel like my heart has been crushed, so I can’t imagine how his closest beloveds are coping.

Life isn’t always an easy package to navigate. We change. We grow. We evolve. If we are lucky, we honor how the new road emerges. We develop the skills and work tirelessly to be the best we can be. That is how I see David.

While I was licking my wounds at a failed marriage, job instability, and not living up to my dreams, David chose to consciously live life by opening his eyes and diving into the possibilities with the brilliance that made him the amazing human being he was.

And what I will miss more than anything is the possibilities that he represented. I always felt like spending time with him now would be amazing!!! We didn’t have the opportunity to reconnect in person, but we shared ideas, writings, and life from a distance. We were in touch. I was in closer touch with him because he would often pick up the phone or message me to ask my opinion, share an article, or make sure he was thoughtfully navigating a sticky situation.

At the moment, I am feeling a deep sense of loss. The heart-wrenching pain in my gut is paralyzing and yet I know I need to water some of the seeds that David planted. No problem there, I can’t stop shedding tears.  David found so many ways to make the world a better place. My hope and my prayer is that I can embody one spark of the passion and beauty that fueled David’s essence.

Shalom Chaveri (Good-bye my friend), you will forever be missed.

(Note: I want to thank Laura Smolar, a dear friend, who was kind enough to let me know before I found out about David’s untimely death on social media. One of the last things she texted me today was, “Start writing now. . .don’t wait….go, go now!!!” Little does she know how much she sounded like David who ALWAYS wanted to nudge me to reach more of my potential.)

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(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)

Over the last year and a half, I have openly been seeing myself more clearly than I had in the past. With each step in the journey or thought racing through my head I ask myself lots of questions:

  1. Does what I am doing fuel my soul?
  2. Am I feeling grounded?
  3. How can I make what I am doing more meaningful?
  4. Can I find contentment and maybe even happiness as I embrace whatever I am doing?
  5. Have I surrounded myself with those that inspire me?
  6. Am I being authentic?

Asking these questions and so many others enables me to focus on the my many moving parts of this growing and strengthening process. As each answer unfolds, clarity emerges. It helps to know where I have been and where I am so that I can best chart where I am going. While I have mountains to climb, I love that I can always grow and evolve.

Regardless of the complexities that surround me, I am enveloped in a villiage of loved ones-near and far. While I may feel lonely at times, I am never alone.

This holy work is transforming me to to better self-care and to build stronger connections with others. With so much to do, I have found myself needing to focus on moving more, consciously doing my part for the larger world, addressing my weight challenges, nurturing my spirit and so much more. . .

Surprisingly, I have realized how much of an introvert I am. I feel intense gratitude when I can allow for quiet days with few or no dialogues with others. I often crave solitude; I fantasize of having days, weeks, and even months to myself. And then I quietly laugh to myself when I wonder how I would really feel if I had that sort of time alone.  I may be an introvert, but I love my village too. And watching people on the streets and coffee shops is one of my favorite things to do!

At the same time, I believe that one day I will find the create a beautiful partnership with a man who touches my soul and allows me to touch his. Someone who cares for the world and takes a serious interest in making the world a better place without forgetting to care for himself. The right person will treasure who I am and be comfortable with how I walk in the world. And regardless of who we are when we begin our relationship, may we both stretch and grow into better human beings together and as individuals. May our beauty and light flow out into the world.

I am a seeker in every way. Living consciously as a Jew has allowed me to see the world  as I do. The path has lead me to  teachers that have inspired me to push myself, opened my heart to see how I can better impact the world, and taught me how to honor the woman I am. Writing, chanting, drumming, drawing, learning, and dancing have become part of my nearly daily life. Wow – I am so lucky to have grown as I have.

 

Learning to accept the person I am has been hard at times, heart-warming at other times and always profound.

May blessings abound – for all of us as we continue to travel the world as we do.

Onward with light & love,
Chava

 

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Life is a journey full of ups and downs, mountains and valleys, ebbs and flows.  Life is simply full of curve balls.

lifes-curve-balls

The good news is that I tend to find the light in each of life’s journeys.  While I acknowledge that the challenges can be overwhelming, I ultimate embrace each and every turn.  And sometimes I struggle because while I am an optimist, I am also a human being.

With each step I take on life’s journeys, I pray for the strength and fortitude to live with integrity.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I do not.  That’s life.

Lately, I have found myself needing to gravitate to a more silent place giving myself some space between written words and chit chat.  While I am a genuinely happy and forthright person, I am aware that sharing too much of what is in my heart will lead me to a dark place.  Have you ever noticed that the more you talk about something the bigger the issues loom?  With that in mind I am practicing the art of silence; I am facing my feelings in a more insular fashion.

Life’s curve balls are very real, but they also have the ability to strengthen me as I climb each mountain or even if I fall down with my two left feet.

The key to moving forward is to open up my heart and soul by allowing for myself to just go with the the flow as the curve balls  propel me to the place I will ultimately go.

I am doing what I have to do.  Living with what is; navigating the curve balls.

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Tonight we counted Day 41 of the Omer, which is 5 weeks and six days of the counting. Day 41 is referred to as Yesod sheh b’Yesod, Foundation within our Foundation.

Building a foundation means you have to hear your voice and the voices that surround you too.

Building a foundation means you have to hear your voice and the voices that surround you too.

Life is full of building blocks that we need in order to navigate all aspects of life including nature.  With all the moving parts that encompass life, each part of the whole has to be developed as fully as possible so that all parts of the foundation are solid.

As a writer,

  • each word matters.
  • sentences need to be concise.
  • paragraphs need clear sentences to develop an idea.
  • each paragraph has to blend with the words that come before and the words that will come after it.
  • every sentence, every paragraph needs to support the ultimate goal of the writing.

As a environmentalist,

  • each of us have to be conscious of how we walk in the world.
  • take small steps as we develop the skills to move forward within the larger world.
  • learn to listen to all sides of the different issues before taking on a specific issue.
  • formulate plans for how you can get involved in doing the holy work of tikkun olam (repairing the world)
  • work with a team or create a team that will support each other to make a difference by meeting ‘the goal’.
  • follow your heart and mind while doing what it takes to make a difference.
  • don’t give in or allow people that doubt you to drive you to silence.

As a Jewish leader,

  • one needs to know the subject matters that are part of your leadership or how to work with what isn’t  yet known.
  • be sincere in your work with others.
  • be able to be kind to those you work with as well as yourself.
  • know that being a leader means knowing how to listen to what others are saying without needing to control each step of any process.
  • don’t be afraid to lead.
  • loving Judaism should be a given.
  • realize that you don’t have to navigate the work alone.
  • be a role model of integrity, but not perfection.

I could do the same exercise and develop the different foundations for my roles as a mother, a friend, a teacher, a dreamer, an artist, a political activist, a Progressive Jew, a dog owner, etc.  Life is full of building blocks that develop all that we do as human beings.

With all that we navigate in our lives, may we have the fortitude to build foundations with knowledge and thoughtfulness.

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Tonight we will count Day 35 of the Omer, which is 5 weeks of the counting. Day 35 is referred to as Malkhut sheh b’Hod, Shekhinah within Expansiveness.  Shekhinah is a way of looking at Malkhut (meaning kingdom).  When God or godliness dwells in one central location, you have a kingdom.

With each and every step, I try to hold myself with integrity and to put godliness in every interaction.  There is an entire world out there that matters and depends on my integrity.  Sometimes I struggle, but still I believe that is my responsibility to follow Gandhi’s saying and “be the change you want to see in the world.”  If I consciously embrace a world of godliness than perhaps my steps will guide me to higher ground when climbing to higher ground is not an option.

Hiking Boots

To live in the bigger world, I have to remember to walk gently, to honor truth even when it hurts, and to constantly strive to be my best self even when I am dealing with the shadow of others.  The world depends on people actively being the best they can be.  As a mother, a teacher, a friend, a writer, and a human being, I have no choice but to always put my best foot forward.

Surrendering to life’s darkness isn’t an option, yet it is often how I feel when I battle the demons that exist around me.  In every realm (personal and more universal) that I travel I see darkness, but it is my job to hold myself in light and to find others that endeavor to do the same.  I am not an island; although there are moments that I feel like one.  Reality is that it takes many loving souls to make the larger world a better place.

Will you join me?  With each breath, I pray for Malkhut sheh b’Hod, Shekhinah within Expansiveness

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The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. ~Gustave Flaubert

Welcome back to my journey towards Seeking My Own Path to Simchah (Happiness):  My Own Personal Happiness Project.

Writing allows me the space to cultivate ideas. Through writing, I hope to challenge others as well as myself to grapple with ideas and seek the answers to questions that we sometimes don’t even know we have. For the next two to three weeks, I will be sharing 11 or more commandments or guidelines that I am developing for myself in my journey to simchah.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas as I openly work towards growing into an even happier human being.

Simchah (happiness) is a beautiful emotion.  Personally I perceive it as being an ecstatic emotion that is somewhat beyond what I have been known to feel. There have been moments of joy, but I am seeking more.  Here is where I tell those that know me personally to stop feeling melancholy for me.  OK? I am a really content person overall: I love life and love living in it.  At the same time, I am on a journey to actively seek what I think might be a higher level of contentment; I am seeking inner simchah, a more enduring sensation than contentment, maybe even more contagious too.

Over six weeks ago, I had planned to do a 13 part series called, “Seeking My Own Path to Simchah (Happiness): My Own Personal Happiness Project”.  The first two parts of the series are:

Now I have decided that although I am extraordinarily busy, I am absolutely ready to continue this journey that was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

Moving forward – Commandment 2: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Wow, this theme seems to come up in my life again and again.  Even last night I mentioned this commandment in my last blog.  Little did I know it was a recurring theme in my life.

About 8 plus years ago I changed my first and last name.  My first name is now Chava and it essentially means life.  I love life; I am alive.  I feel that gift each and every day.  My last name is now Gal-Or, meaning wave of light.  I gave myself that name for two simple reasons:

  1. I wanted to acknowledge the light that exists in others and in most situations.  (That is how I made it through tremendous darkness within my childhood and in the years my son was ill.)
  2. I always want to remember the light within me.

For me, living in this world means that I need to consciously be engaged in how I connect with the world.  While I feel compelled to navigate the world by considering my footprint in every way; I also find myself considering how I can share what I know.  My goal is never to make someone feel bad, but it is important that folks make conscious decisions when they can.  Perhaps they will consider new realities or share what they know if I am making an incorrect assumption based on incorrect information.  In the end, we all benefit.

‘Be the change you want to see in the world” means that I need to live consciously and treat others with kindness and love even when challenges exist.  Sometimes it means that I need to walk away when the space that I am standing is no longer sacred and when I stop being able to be the person I think I should be.  Admitting it is time to move forward is an extension of living with integrity and therefore taking one more step so that I can “be the change. . . .”

Here is just a small list of what our family does to be the change:

  • buy fair-trade chocolate.  The chocolate industry utilizes child slave labor at every turn.
  • use environmentally friendly products and make our own cleansers.
  • use an electric lawn mower instead of gas.  We would love to find a manual lawn mower next.
  • try to send thoughtful cards to people.
  • purchase and consume organics.
  • limit our trash as we can. (moving was not good for us in this department, working on improving again)
  • support businesses that have good business practices.
  • refrain from using businesses that do not share our values.
  • refrain from purchasing gas at Chevron, BP, Exxon, Shell, Mobile.  Trying to figure out who might be good.  Any ideas?
  • remember the workers.  We always try to tip for service rendered even when it isn’t the norm.
  • are always kind to strangers and people we meet wherever we go.
  • do not purchase anything made in China unless it is used or recycled.
  • actively pursue human rights in any way we can.  We actively do our part for Palestinians, folks in Darfur, workers in China, immigrant workers, etc.  Sadly, the list goes on and on.

We have much to learn, but with each new piece of information we try to incorporate the knowledge so that we can be conscious consumers and human beings.  Change in the world begins with each individual actively doing his or her part (large and small).  If each of us made a difference in some small way, our collective consciousness would grow.

My second commandment is that I need to be the change I want to see in the world.  I need to remember that with each step I take.  Complacency can never become a part of who I am.

With each smile, with each small step, I can be the change I want to see in the world.  Can you?

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