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Posts Tagged ‘Insight’

A friend of mine just send me a quote that resonated to the deepest part of my soul.

The only way you can endure your pain is to let it be painful.
~Shunryu Suzuki , Zen monk and teacher
who helped popularize Zen Buddhism 

After over 11 weeks of pain and now healing, I have a new insight into the rhythm of life. The challenge of dealing with excruciating pain gave me the opportunity to reflect on not only myself, but on the larger wold.

Almost nothing about life is simple or easy; sometimes it is simply hard or feels like too much.

While March’s hell took over my ability to function and forced me to ground myself differently than I ever have, the sadness that permeated my being over the ensuing weeks may have been worse in many ways. With too much time on my hands and an inability to focus on writing, reading, loved ones, or work, I went towards darkness. Sometimes it was as if I was in a very long tunnel; the only problem was that I couldn’t see the other end of the tunnel; I couldn’t see the light.

Even with my beautiful sons, sweet phone calls from loved ones, and a couple of visitors, I felt more alone than I may have felt since my early years. My heart and soul ached with deep loneliness and the world’s politics made me feel hopeless. Even as my body healed, I understood that I was grieving deeply. I was grieving from the lost dreams – personally and globally. With each passing day, the daily beatings left me battered and bruised and sometimes even hyperventilating.

What I learned during the darkest moments was that I couldn’t hide from my pain. There was no cocoon big enough to hold me and no one there to hear the depths of my pain. Although my beautiful sister-in-law reached out to me daily, I wasn’t able to be consoled; I also chose to only share about the physical pain. I believed and still believe that the depth of what I was feeling was too much to put on any one person’s shoulders. So instead, I allowed me the time and space to go through it.

The good news is that I have always found light in the darkness and as the sparks have begun to make room for more and more light, I have slowly become more grounded. With each passing day, calmness emerges and light shines a little more brightly; not only my body is healing, but so is my soul.

The single most valuable tool for healing came from giving my pain a voice. As we all know, it is impossible to sweep boulders under a carpet. I’ve tried, but to no avail. So with perseverance, I started naming my fears and addressing my pain by actively allowing myself the room to feel and even to cry before trying to move mountains.

Even as I share a taste of what was weighing me down, know that I am aware that all is intertwined with each other and nothing stands on it’s own even if it may appear that it does. There are many parts of life’s puzzle that impact each of us; I am no different.

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.

All things connect.
~Chief Seattle

“My back hurts!!!!
The physical pain may have been hurled at me the way that bombers explode their targeted locations with precision, but finding the right doctors and medications put me on a healing journey. Surgery probably saved my ability to walk and now physical therapy, yoga, and losing weight will move me to an even better place. My health journey has had horrific moments, but loving practitioners and doctors have made each passing day less painful.

Core Belief Tree June 2017.FinalOnce I started finding ways to navigate the pain, I began to see that my back’s pain was in part due to my need to strengthen my core and better align my soul with my roots (values) while working towards what I really want in my life (the fruits of my labor). I needed and still need to become a healthier and stronger me so that ‘real’ healing can occur on every level. That meant and still means that in order to be healthy I need to better engage with my root values so that my core can thrive. And only through pollination will blossoms sprout fruit. This realization lead me to understand that I had to navigate a lot of moving parts in order to blossom and ultimately see the fruits of my labor. This light bulb moment followed a fabulous online class art class that I took before surgery.

The vision above is what emerged. I have drawn several different versions of this tree and each one brings more clarity.

What the ‘F’ am I going to do? I never have enough money!
As a Jewish Educator and a single mother, money has often been a challenge for me. I have always faced without hesitation and mostly with a positive attitude. It is what it is. Yet. . . .illness, medical bills, and reality got to me during much of my recovery. Still, I tried to seek positive solutions to overwhelming fear.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the following question on Facebook, “How are you becoming fiscally more socially responsible?” The first response came from someone who believed that this question can only be asked of people that have a means. Initially, I I was asking that question because I literally don’t have enough money to thrive, but yet I really do have what I need-mostly. On most months, I can prioritize, but it is really tight. And getting sick did nothing to make it easier.

My tight budget got tight enough to put me over the edge. With an inability to drive, my sons had to start taking Uber (no good transit system here), I had to buy medications and more medications, I had to meet a deductible that was outside of anything I could afford, and I had to pay co-pays for every doctor’s appointment. And when I needed to go to the ER because I was fighting an infection, I opted out of going; I just didn’t have the mandatory $400 for an ER visit. (Fortunately, my decision to wait until morning worked out just fine.) The good news is that I had a credit card or two; the bad news is that I used them. A tax refund paid off most of the debt and this month, I finished paying off the rest except that left me with barely enough to navigate this month.

Even as I write about my realities, I am so grateful that this is simply a ‘first world problem’. I profoundly aware of how fortunate I really am; I am always ok. I am blessed that one of my sons works and gives nearly every penny towards our household. And while things are tight, I always make it and I always have. Mostly. Are things easy? No. Do I waste much money? Sometimes. . .still I am careful. Was I fortunate enough to navigate the hundreds of dollars that illness has thrown in my direction? Yes. In my illness, I figured out how to pay down payments for surgery, medications, other unexpected expenses.

Regardless of the monthly medical expenses, the doctors and hospital still need to be paid, I am making it and even starting to hope I will have a solid savings plan in place by September if not sooner.  I have food on the table, an ability to cook in a sweet little kitchen, a beautiful home with an amazing landlord, a car (with car payments), and a lovely neighborhood. Basically, I really do have most of what I need/want. I have a beautiful life.

Back to my Facebook question, I believe that everyone of us can make socially conscious financial decisions. Are you directly supporting sweatshops or purchasing your clothing through thrift shops and clothing swaps?  Do you buy chocolate bars at dirt cheap prices or limit yourself to a fair-trade chocolate bar every few months? Are you using the dryer or hanging your clothing on a clothesline or drying rack? When you go to grocery stores or any store, do you use paper or plastic? Perhaps you simply bring your own bags; I know I do. While I am far from perfect, I am trying to make socially conscious decisions at every opportunity and if I am really thoughtful, I am also saving money with each decision.

This month, I am fixated on three very real realities, I want to purchase a compost, I need to put off going to a dentist for a little bit longer, and I am sad that I can’t make all the donations that I want to make. There are a lot of beautiful nonprofits doing amazing work. Let me know if you’d like to give to any my favorite organization; I definitely have a bunch I could suggest. Some of my deepest sadness comes from the fact that I am not giving as I would like or doing enough. But I do know that I am doing the best that I can AND the more I learn, the more I try to make responsible and loving decisions not only for our family, but also for the greater world.

Our World Feels Like It is Falling Apart
Mother Earth is crying. Human beings are being delegitimized based on where they live, the color of their skin, their religion, their socio-economic status, their gender, and/or their sexual orientation. Add these realities to the fact that not only the United States government, the Israeli government, as well as so many other governments are filled with ill equipped leaders who are toxic at the least and seemingly fascist at the worst.

And regardless of how bad it is, I am amazed at the angels that are showing up. Whether at rallies, at organizing meetings, at the offices of elected officials, or on the street, I am meeting passionate people who want to make our world a better place. I have even been touched by elected officials who have integrity and are helping guide those that want to do whatever they can.

Healing My Body, My Mind, and My Soul
I took the weeks needed to heal not only my body, but also my mind and my soul. Admitting that the pain felt overwhelming and I felt alone was the only way to move forward. At times crying cleansed me and sometimes it paralyzed me for a moment or more, but in the end I have worked through the deepest depths of loss. I have allowed myself time to grieve and at times I am allowing myself the space to still grieve. In so many ways it feels like I have nine lives or perhaps twenty-nine lives. 🙂

Living is holy work and I am absolutely up for the task. Hineini, Here I am!

With love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS – To remind me of the power of ‘Choosing Life’, I think back to John Denver’s song, I Want To Live. There is so much beautiful work to do! Are you with me?

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Photo courtesy of Janie Grackin Did you notice the butterfly? :)

Photo courtesy of Janie Grackin
Did you notice the butterfly? 🙂

Middah (character trait) focus: Accepting gifts

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.

Gifts come in so many different forms: shipping packages, active helping, a listening ear, gift wrap, natural beauty, insight, etc.  At any given moment, gifts surround us, but sometimes we have to open our eyes extra wide so that we can really notice what you see in front of you.

Over the last few days, I have been literally blown away to the point of tears as I have felt surrounded by the love of friends near and far.  As I navigate life and all that it has to offer, I am feeling the love and care of people that are giving me their love, things I need, time to be authentic, job leads, and friendship.  Blessings really do surround me at every turn.

In the midst of life’s trials and tribulations, may each and every one of us notice and accept the many gifts that surround us.

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Wherever you go, possibilities surround you! By opening both your eyes and your heart, a door will always appear.

Tucson-fav

Each door, path, and journey offers infinite gifts and potential challenges.

My friend Shay Seaborne reminded me of image of Alice in the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland. Alice couldn’t see the little door when she was big; only wnen she was reduced could she see it and ultimately go through it too!

We often struggle to see that which is in front of us, yet life is full of openings if only we open our eyes a little wider.  Discovering the doorway takes insight, sometimes from within and sometimes from others.  The key to moving forward is to trust that anywhere you go will lead you towards new experiences and/or opportunities.  There are doors everywhere you go.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Choosing which way is to navigate takes a certain amount of trust.  The bottom-line is that we grow from each and every experience, even the tough ones.

Over the coming weeks or even months, I will use my blog to explore how each step within life’s journeys is synonymous to moving through a doorway towards insight, wisdom, beauty, and opportunities.

May each of us walk gently and honor ourselves completely as we navigate through the many doors of our lives.

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Today, there is no more counting the Omer until next year: I finished counting the Omer last week.  For 49 days, I counted from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom/Receiving the Torah.

The practice of writing nearly each of the 49 days helped me feel more grounded and balanced.  As I struggled with some of the intensity that often fills my being, I was able to focus on different kabalistic teachings and to bring them to life in a way that often felt right for me (and hopefully for some of my readers too).  My writing practice had good days and bad days, meaningful writing and not as meaningful writing.  Regardless of the day, my words gave me a greater insight into my heart and into my thoughts.  With each letter typed, my core felt like it was becoming a little more whole, a little more free.

Once I counted the 49th day, the practice of Counting the Omer came to completion.  Over and Out.  And with the last day came an emptiness.  I struggled with finding my foundation, my yesod.  For 49 days, I was guided by tradition to share my thoughts and then as tradition would have it, I had to create a different framework to keep me motivated.  While many ideas are emerging, none are ready to share just yet.  The good news is that I don’t think the waiting will be long.  The good news is that I have come to understand the benefit of the space between the words.  There is power in the silence that surrounds me as I wait for my next writing process to emerge.

Oriah the Dreamer

May the silence lead to an inner calmness and to the emergence of both insightful and powerful writing.

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Last night we counted Day 31 of the Omer, which is 4 weeks and three days of the counting. Today is referred to as Tiferet sheh b’Hod, Beauty, Balance or Harmony within Expansiveness.

Have you ever noticed how some days just work?  All of the pieces of life’s puzzles come together as you would like and challenging moments don’t really trouble you.

Tiferet sheh b’Hod

Each of us have a story that makes us who we are at any given moment.  We have trials and tribulations; we have gifts and challenges happening at nearly every turn.  We have a past, a present, and a future.  Life always has a lot of moving parts and for the most part, we have a choice on how we experience the moving parts.

(Note: I do realize that tragedy never feels good and loss can be devastating.  And in the midst of pain, life can feel like hell.  From experience, I realize that awareness or insight comes only after the harshness of pain eases over time.  While I believe we have a choice how we walk through life’s darkness, we might not have a choice during the initial spark or as a disaster is absorbing our essence.  The choice will come days, weeks, months, or even years later when we have an opportunity to look back and find moments that worked or new ways to absorb the blow of reality.)

DoubleRainbow

Storms come and go.  Life happens and sometimes we have no control.  If we open our eyes real wide, we might find the rainbows that happen after the storm.  At those moments, I am always amazed that regardless of how I feel part of the larger world and I see the beauty that surrounds me with an open heart.

Tiferet sheh b’Hod, Beauty, Balance or Harmony within Expansiveness.

May we all find our rainbows within the beauty that encircles us.

 

 

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We all Came Back

Ok, so my son Aryeh had a really cool idea.  Literally!  He suggested that our family take some of his friends camping in the winter weather.  Well the good news is, we all came back.  And each of the seven participants returned home with 10 fingers and 10 toes too.  So, I’d say it was a good trip.

Now if you asked each person how the trip went, you would hear a completely different story or experience.  But in the end, the trip was brief and successful, we learned some amazing lessons and we were able to gain some insights for what will help us the next time we take such an excursion.  And we will be going winter camping again, perhaps not with Dovi, our youngest son, but we will try again.  Too many lessons were learned to waste it for the sake of an education.  🙂

So below are some of the rules we learned and why:

  1. Borrowing “the right” camping gear helped us tremendously and allowed us to consider what it is we really need to purchase if we hope to winter hike and camp more.  Thanks Schecter/Curry Family.
  2. Don’t assume everything you read.  Check out the information on a website with a human person before assuming that the website for a campsite is speaking truth. 🙂 Because I loved Gifford Pinchot State Park, we were trying to camp near there.  Well that WAS a good idea.  The good news is that Michael found a park ranger that suggested that we camp at another state park nearby that had camping in November.  We ended up going to a fabulous location near the Appalachian Trail, Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We will go back too!  BTW, I am so proud of myself for not sharing what I was thinking when I realized that Michael didn’t think to double-check our plans with a human being.
  3. Don’t bring anyone that isn’t prepared for the excursion.  We did tell the teens, Aryeh’s friends, what to bring, but one of the kids so didn’t listen to our advice or follow our advice once we realized that she wasn’t prepared.  I, not trusting the teens to bring what they needed, brought a bunch of extra scarves, non-cotton socks, layering shirts, and fleece sweatshirts.  The person in question would not take the offerings.  Next time we take teens camping, we will double-check that they have what they need early enough to send them packing or to gather what they do need.
  4. Loved the state park campgrounds!!! Next time we won’t even consider a privately owned campgrounds.
  5. Every experience that I have ever had with a park ranger has been fabulous!  Ranger Fox at Gifford Pinchot State Park was a kind and generous guide as he made suggestions for the remainder of our trip.  Don’t you love the name Ranger Fox?
  6. Slavery is underrated.  Every capable person has to be making the camping trip work!
  7. 24 hours for our first winter camping experience was pure genius; we learned so much and next time we will be able to do it even better!
  8. We could have done with a lot less supplies and better quality layers to stay warm.  Did I tell you that some of us were really cold?
  9. Our schedule for packing up and getting out of the house left a lot to be desired.  Next time, we will:
  • Pack up in the daylight the day before.
  • Leave early in the morning.
  • Plan to set up camp before noon if at all possible (just to make sure we can take advantage of the day better and also be prepared too.)

One of my favorite moments in the entire experience was when Aryeh came into our tent at about 3 AM. Yes, I do know I am somewhat sick for thinking this way.  Aryeh had really pulled some muscles while chopping up the firewood earlier in the evening.  I was so happy that he was in pain, not head pain, just normal discomfort.  I LOVE NORMAL!!!! After three years of watching Aryeh live with traumatic pain, I was celebrating until I realized that this was the first time in about 4 years I didn’t bring Tylenol, Ibprofen, aspirin, and narcotics with us.  Fortunately, I had a little motrin in my first aid kit.  In spite of what my friend Jerry thought, I was prepared.  J

Another precious moment came while Dovi was suffering from the cold weather.  Cold weather has never been good for Dovi.  I was really hoping the camping trip would be different.  In any case, at one point, Dovi went into the tent to go into a sleeping bag and try to warm up.  It worked only marginally.  Well after a while, Aryeh came in and helped me rub Dovi’s feet and hands.  The love and kindness between the brothers made my heart soar!  And after awhile of rubbing, it was Aryeh that got Dovi to come warm his feet/ body near the fire.  Brotherly love at it’s best.

Within an hour or two of returning home, Aryeh and I were off to REI to browse now that we knew more about winter camping.  We found ourselves looking at better quality layers of clothing, new shoes, a sleeping bag for Aryeh since he is a little taller than the bags we borrowed could accommodate.  And Aryeh never goes to REI without looking at knives.   Now that he knows more about camping, he is looking for his next camping tool! What kind of mother let’s their child play with knives?  🙂

Our camping trip was definitely COLD, a new experience, and filled with moments of insight and sometimes fun.  But perhaps the most insightful wisdom came from Dovi when somewhere in the middle of the night, he turned to me and asked, “who’s bright idea was this?” When I told him it was Aryeh’s idea to go camping, he responded, “NEVER listen to Aryeh’s ideas again.” 🙂

As far as another winter camping trip goes; most of our family will try again.  And, all of us agreed that a springtime campout is worth looking forward to.  YEAH!!!!

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