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Posts Tagged ‘illness’

I am hard on myself. I never believe that I am enough, that I give enough, that I am present enough. This is especially true for doing my part to repair the world (tikun olam) or to stand up for the politics I believe in.

Instead of lamenting about what I could have or should have done before this time, I have decided to begin doing what I can now. This actually started weeks ago, but over the last days, I have really been called to action.

Here I am; I am here to serve you!

Here I am; I am here to serve you!

 On Wednesday night, two things happened that nudged me out of my inertia.

  1. Nine beautiful souls were massacred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
  2. A devastating fire in the San Bernadino National Forest near where my son is working in Angelus Oaks, California forced the staff to evacuate from where they were camping. For this moment, the camp is safe, but all is not looking good for that area. At this point 17,000 acres has been destroyed and the staff only have the belongings that they had on their overnight. I am happy that the residents and firefighters are safe at this point; may that continue! I am devastated for the wildlife.

The visceral reaction that I had initially shifted to a deep desire to ‘do something’.  By Thursday, I asked my chant group for possible chants so that we could shift the energy, I created resource sheets for comforting those in mourning, those affected by the deaths, and for the wildfires too.

Nearly every waking moment since Wednesday, I have chanted, prayed, visualized, healing for all in need. I haven’t been able to sleep or eat much either. I have allowed a few tears to fall and my heart to crack open.

And yesterday, I called a local reverend to ask if he would mind if I joined his upcoming vigil. I also emailed my rabbi to see if she would be willing to have my new congregation host a shloshim* gathering for the local AME church. Regardless, I will be reaching out to them myself and finding out if perhaps I can organize a mandala making gathering so that we could send cards or mandalas to each and every member/family of the Charleston church.

The bottom-line is I am a tree hugger and a lover of all life-force. I may not be able to do much, but I can do something. There is a part of me that is simply not able to sit back and do nothing.

Over the years, I have been inspired by people that make a difference. Today, I have the ability to touch lives. Just because I have yet to do enough for others doesn’t mean I have to stay on that trajectory.

Politically, I plan to find my voice over the coming year for the upcoming elections, gun control, and the environment. Next summer, I am hoping to find a trip that will allow for me to learn more and have a greater impact in American policy towards Israel. I live in Houston, Texas now; it is my time to step up to the plate. I can’t hide from being involved any longer.

It is also time for me to celebrate that my life is quite amazing. My sons are healthy young men that are beginning their launch into adulthood. During much of their growing years, I was absorbed with their healing from serious illnesses. (They are both healthy now.) And in recent years, I had some of my own personal challenges to contend with.  But it is important for me to remember that I rarely sat back and did nothing. There were years when I volunteered in shelters weekly, took in a homeless family for six months, did work for the environment, stood strong for Israel, worked towards eliminating modern-day slave labor, and did my part for local and national politics. BUT I truly have not done enough and I am ok with that. As long as I stand by the below equation now:

KNOWLEDGE + VOLITION + ACTION = RESULTS**

After my older son healed from serious illness, I had a false start and thought I would do more, but it wasn’t my time. I have to find peace with that reality. I am not the same person I was then. I have faced a few more demons, fear of homelessness, and what it means to work for a hourly wage. Both my spirit and my body were seriously impacted by what happened to me in Tucson, but I am thriving now.  Still, Tucson gave me one of the most precious gifts imaginable, it gave me the ability to hear differently and the determination to help others.

So, here I am. Hineini. I am here to serve others, to impact the world for good, and to weave my words so that others may be drawn to reflect, to stretch, and to grow.

With every fiber of my being, I pray that my actions and my words do their part for tikun olam, repairing the world, while I walk gently and lovingly with each step.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Notes:
*In traditional Judaism, the first 30 days after someones burial is for intense mourning. For this situation, I am thinking we could mark 30 days after the massacre and create a healing ritual.

** This equation was originally found from Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., but I do think I have seen it elsewhere as well.

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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 . . . .]

(Apology: Day 15 of my Omer Reflections did not happen because I took 30+ hours to play with old friends.)

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller: Western Minnesota

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller:
Western Minnesota

Life is a journey. There is no question that a certain amount of trust or perhaps faith is needed in order to navigate life in the best possible way.

Today as I was driving home from a brief visit to Baltimore, I was struck by how the below poem represented my life. I have been fortunate to surround myself with people that love me for me, that have always welcomed my friendship or sisterhood, and have met me wherever I am at any given point in time.

Whether I disappear for years or even decades, there is always space for me to re-emerge. My closest friends have been with me through serious illnesses, death, deep sadness, and loss; they have also been with me through celebration of life, intense joy, birth and rebirth.

With that in mind, I am sharing one of my most treasured poems.

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back      may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

by Lucille Clifton

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 . . . .]

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller: Western Minnesota

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller:
Western Minnesota

How many times have you felt like you were sinking in quick sand?  Or perhaps you felt like you were simply treading water and getting absolutely no where? Hard times happen.  Deep sadness breaks our hearts. Health challenges take the vitality and sometimes the lives of those we love.  And there are days, weeks, months, years, when our own lives are feeling challenged physically or emotionally.  Life isn’t easy – at least not all the time.

Over the course of my life, I have faced some really horrible moments, seriously ill children, financial difficulties, a broken heart (or two), and more.  And quite honestly, I have always sought to stay clear of devastation. Even when each of my children suffered serious illness at different points in time, I quietly told them to go if they needed to go. . .I let them know that I would always love them and that I would somehow be ok if I lost them. I am not sure if I was being truthful, but each time I said that, I believed what I was saying.

Moving forward is the only I way I know to persevere through the hard times.  We have to take one step and then another; we have to cross the bridge or bridges the best way we know how.  I am not suggesting that this happens instantaneously, sometimes it takes a while to figure out how we will survive or thrive the roads we are being forced to endure.

I live in a place of gratitude. I am grateful for what have, when I have it.  And while it sometimes takes a while, I usually find the beauty in what was –even the things or loved ones I have lost.  Although, I do love those that have been in my life and struggle to let go.  That is my holy work, because relationships often don’t last forever. Some end; others ebb and flow.

And as I am getting older, I realize that health is not a given. Emotionally and physically, people go through their challenges.  My own children did and countless friends have been faced hell. I have had my own ill health, but I have always chosen to seek the best route possible.When illness strikes, it is my job to pray, actively life to the fullest and help others to do the same.

I love that I have experienced working with both children and seniors that have endured emotional, physical, and mental disabilities. The individuals and their loved ones have taught me that thriving is a non-negotiable.

Moving forward is the only I way I know to persevere through the hard times.  We have to take one step and then another; we have to cross the bridge or bridges the best way we know how.  I am not suggesting that this happens instantaneously, sometimes it takes a while to figure out how we will survive or thrive the road we are being forced to endure.

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fortang taking a beautiful photo of her beloved Ren crossing the bridge. Each of us find our own ways to cross the bridges of life.

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fortang – Lori captured Ren, her beloved, crossing this stunning and secluded bridge.
Note: Each of us find our own unique ways to cross the bridges of life.

May each of find the strength to take one step and then another until we can cross the bridges that need to be cross.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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“Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.
Quote by: Wendell Berry

(Prologue: I have grown to love life and tire of people wondering if I am for real.  I am. I am human, but I am a thriver. Regardless of what is tossed my way, I will be ok. Always. I have a choice on how to move forward and I choose . . .)

Life happens.

With every breath, I get to decide how I will emerge and how I will face the holy world that I have and will continue to experience.

Struggles have been a part of my life – never by choice. In response, I have made a conscious decision to NEVER allow them to define who I am.  The trouble is that there are some people see my life as really hard and need to focus on just that. I see my life quite differently – full and blessed. The gifts have come in all shapes and sizes. Each passing moment has lead to new adventures – some simply divine, others challenging, and still others painful.  Yet, regardless of what has transpired in my life, I have come to find the treasures that have made me the person I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a work in progress.  I have had days that leave my heart broken with endless tears falling. But those days have been far and few in between.  When I look back at the trials and tribulations that I have endured, I choose to see the beauty that is often a consequence of life’s difficulties.

Life happens.

During some of the segments of my life, I have faced a few too many arduous junctures.  Ultimately, each has led me to find inner peace, phenomenal opportunities, and many open doors.  I am who I am because I have always found light, maybe not instantly, but eventually.

The last few years have had a few challenges. I recovered from the nightmares that plagued me once my son recovered from years of serious illness, I navigated professional challenges that left me jobless, and I treaded life’s waters as a single mother. Regardless, none of it destroyed any part of me. In response, I have found that I have special friends, people that will help me in countless ways. Struggling alone has never happened for me. My amazing friends have nurtured not only me, but my precious sons too.  Whether I needed emotional support, financial help, or a hand, my friends have been there for me.

Through it all, there is a inner joy that sustains me and allows me to thrive.  When I smile, my entire body feels the reverberations; no wonder, I am drawn to feel happy. I want to share my excitement with every one I meet and sometimes I am lucky enough to do so.  I am not certain where I found the inner joy that sustains me even as I navigate tough realities, but I have.  Yay!

Creatively, I am becoming the person I want to be.  My writing soothes my soul and confronts life’s storms.  Over time, I seem to have impacted others with my words. Wow. . . how sweet is that?  And I have also taken up drawing and painting (just a little); I even have a new piece of artwork that I have been creating.  None of this would be what it is if I hadn’t experienced life in the ways I have.

Educationally, I have learned to trust myself as an educator and to push myself to make more of a difference to those that I mentor and teach.  Only once I believed in myself fully was it possible for me to create and then share my creations with others.

And spiritually, I have found my voice.  Whether I am drumming, chanting, praying, or hiking, I find that I am becoming connected with the earth in profound ways.  I have grown to love how I walk within the world.  Sometimes I find myself dancing, and moving in ways that I have never done before.  I am alive, fully alive.

Nothing has ever destroyed my spirit. Even when I have had moments that I felt broken, I emerged stronger with tools that allowed for healing of my heart, my mind, and my soul.

A long time ago, I learned that while the world is sometimes dark, my spirit is full of light.  I always have the ability to choose to see the light and if I am really honoring who I am, I can be the light.

Only when I live in the light will joy exist within me.  So, I guess I need to choose light; there is no option.

Sunset near Pupukea Hawaii; Photo coutesy of  Kathleen Kendle

Sunset near Pupukea Hawaii; Photo coutesy of Kathleen Kendle

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I believe that every day is a gift, not to be taken for granted.

Eight years ago next month, my son Aryeh suffered his first debilitating headache. From that first headache until now, life was forever altered.  In the days, weeks, months, and years that followed, I learned that life as I knew it could end in a moment’s notice. The good news for us was that while life drastically evolved, my son thrived in ways that can described as a miracle.

I AM ALIVE!

I AM ALIVE!

At 13 years old, the doctors found 6.5 centimeter arachnoid cyst wrapped around my son Aryeh’s brain.  For over three years, Aryeh suffered from horrific pain, life and death struggles, and deep sadness; we all suffered from loss.  For anyone that has experienced the serious illness of a child or any loved one, you know how quickly life changes after a serious diagnosis.

For years, Aryeh couldn’t handle bright or flashing lights, loud or sudden noises, kinetic energy or any movement.  Our very active household was silenced both physically and metaphorically.  Dovi, Aryeh’s little brother, was the most impacted.  My once very kinetic child was forced to quiet his body and spirit.  And with the silence came the fears that mounted with each passing month. Would Aryeh survive the hell that was taking over our lives?  Would the two brain surgeries save his life? Would his pain ever end? So many questions, so few answers. . .

Every one that knew Aryeh watched in horror as his pain could not be managed. To help us through this journey, we learned to find the gifts – some spiritual and some tangible. One precious gift was both. A group of friends and staff members from Fairhaven School tie-dyed a queen set of sheets for Aryeh. The sheets arrived days before Aryeh and I were to leave Washington, DC to go to Los Angeles for Aryeh’s second brain surgery. Those sheets stayed with Aryeh from the moment they came into our house through the many years of Ayeh’s illness, and beyond.

As a mother, I can’t even begin to explain how impactful the gift was not only to Aryeh, but to his whole family too. Aryeh’s friends knew that he absolutely loved and still loves tie-dye. At 13 years old, Aryeh surrounded his bedroom walls with tie dye wall hangings and wore only tie dye shirts.  🙂 While this might have made his grandparents a little nuts, it put a huge smile on my face!!!  Tie-dye t-shirts are still one of Aryeh’s favorite pieces of clothing (and for that matter Dovi’s too).

The good news is that we were fortunate to have amazing friends who made and sold their wares at Milky Wave Tie-Dye; Aryeh was also lucky to have friends that knew him so well!

The sheets became a comforting treasure very quickly.  The fitted sheets and pillow cases were immediately put on Aryeh bed and pillows.  Aryeh only stopped using them recently when they became threadbare. And when we went to California for his surgery the flat sheet came with us.  In fact, while he was in an induced coma, his father and I wrapped him in the sheet and just made sure the sheet was always on him. On one such day, a nurse came in and told us that the sheet was in his way and we needed to move it. During that particular conversation, the nurse enlightened us by telling us that he didn’t need the sheet nor would he know if it was on him or not.  Needless to say, the sheet stayed, but the nurse was asked not to return.

Once we came home, Aryeh reunited with his pillow cases and fitted sheet; the flat sheet however was placed in a drawer under his bed for safekeeping.

A few years after Aryeh’s brain surgeries, I was learning a chant that lifted my spirit and moved my soul. As I prepared the chant for a service I was leading, Aryeh walked into my room and said, “I’d like the words of the first line to be on my tallit* (prayer shawl) one day.” The words were poignant and perfect for Aryeh.  The Hebrew/English chant written by Rabbi David Zeller (of blessed memory) was:

I am alive. (x4)
And who is this aliveness I am? (x3)
I
s it not the holy blessed ONE.

http://davidzeller.org/aliveness/ – You can hear a snippet of the song from the first track of the CD on the website.

Once Aryeh decided that he wanted the words ‘I am alive’ (in Hebrew) to be on his tallit, then it only seemed natural to use his tie-dye flat sheet. Unfortunately, it took Aryeh and me years to make it happen for him, but last week we did it!!! With the help of our good friend Laurie Dietz, we were able to have the words I am alive (in Hebrew) embroidered for the tie dye tallit. And then I tied the tzitzit, fringes, for his beloved ritual garmet.

Aryeh in his amazing new tallit.

Aryeh in his amazing new tallit.

Full Circle
While the creation of the tallit began with illness, the tie-dye ultimately became a symbol of living and thriving.  Aryeh is very much alive and loving his new tallit too!

*tallit – A shawl-like garment worn during morning services, with tzitzit (long fringes) attached to the corners as a reminder of the commandments. Sometimes called a prayer shawl.

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

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

TyeDye6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With blessings & light,

Chava

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

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

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Don’t be afraid to tread when you can’t really swim
Dance in the rain and find the rainbows when darkness prevails
Find the good in every challenge that crosses your path
And always soar and reach for your best.
(Excerpt: Sometimes Life Gives Us No Tomorrows
written by Chava Gal-Or)

Have you ever had those moments when your were furious about something only to find that you may be looking at the whatever is happening the wrong way?

One of the most significant practices of my life is to try to find light in the midst of life’s challenges.  I even changed my last name to honor the way I hope to walk in the world.  My last name Gal-Or means wave a light. Years ago I decided to acknowledge that I have mostly been able to find light in darkness or within troubling moments AND I wanted to remind myself to continue to walk the world in this way.  Having said that, I also realize that I am human, there are times when I have to take a moment and reflect.

Over the last few days I found myself reflecting that I really do need to pay attention and to take a deep breathe before allowing frustration to penetrate my heart and mind. As conscious as I am, I am taking a few minutes to openly share exactly how I find the good in the following scenarios.

  1. Accidents happen.  Often times I count my blessings when I am stuck in traffic; I find myself feeling relieved that somehow I was blessed to be running late and missing my potential role in the traffic accident which is just ahead of where I am.  At the same time, I pray for all that are involved in the accident; I never take spiritual or physical health for granted.
  2. Recently, I lost my position at Temple Emanu-El, a local congregation, because of their financial challenges.  For the most part I have chosen not to share the impact of that loss too fully; it wouldn’t serve me well. What I will say is that it hurt my spirit very deeply.  And yet out of the pain, I have come to grips with some spiritual and emotional needs  that I may not have faced so directly if I had not received my walking papers. Living consciously is a powerful gift that I am giving myself.
  3. A few nights ago, my son left all the lights on in the house.  Sigh.  I am so sensitive to light and it ultimately woke me up; I needed to wake up fully so I could turn off all the lights. 😦  To say that I was thoroughly annoyed is an understatement.  So, in order to distract myself and manage some of my agitation I went on Facebook to check out was going on in the world.  And what I found was a friend that was in serious crisis and needed me.  Two hours later, I was profoundly grateful that I could be there for my friend and to help her manage some intense darkness.  If it weren’t for my son’s mistake of leaving the light on, I wouldn’t have been there to listen and to offer some potential ways to navigate all that she needed to cope with.
  4. How many times have you been at a doctor’s office only to be stuck waiting an extra 30 minutes or maybe even an hour?  Well for nearly five years, we were blessed with doctors that didn’t rush my then teenage son through their office visit because they had other patients.  We also had doctors that created a slot for our son because he was too sick to wait.  After such a positive experience with so many medical practitioners, no longer do I get agitated when I have to wait.  Having a doctor that is compassionate and present when we most need him/her makes a world of difference to me.  Ultimately my son emerged healthy and vibrant, but the journey to get there was full of loving souls that really took the time needed to care of my son when he needed it most.
  5. While initially, I may feel frustrated when I get stuck in the Car Repair place or anywhere, but over the years I have come to appreciate the ‘accidental’ gift of time which allows me time to walk over to the coffee shop and take some time to write and people watch.  To me there is nothing better than having time to sit quietly and write and/or people watch.

We never do know what is on our horizons; life happens and so does death.  My job is to try to make the best of every moment.  Sometime the moment is all we have. . . .

Oct 20 - sunrise Pantano WashMay we all be blessed to find the light shining in the horizons.

With love, light, & blessings,
Chava

 

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