Posts Tagged ‘joy’

Tonight we counted Day 37 of the Omer, which is 5 weeks and two days of the counting. Day 37 is referred to as Gevurah sheh b’Yesod, Strength within Foundation.

Emerging from all that life has to offer is similar to trying to navigate a labyrinth. Sometimes it can feel daunting to find the inner-strength and the character to travel the right path and to do the holy work of living.  Breathing deeply and being the best person I can be is part of building a strong foundation.  Drawing on the strength from within my foundation comes from walking gently and doing my part to make certain that I am doing the best I can for myself.  Only then can I do for others. Creating a beautiful foundation happens after one takes care of themselves so that they can then ultimately do for others.

Having the strength to “plant seeds of joy and light” is ultimately how one builds a strong foundation with inner strength.  My teacher Rabbi Shefa Gold instilled this very concept in me with her many teachings; in truth she wasn’t alone, I have had many great teachers.  Planting Seeds, one sacred chant composed  Rabbi Shefa Gold has impacted my spirit strongly.  It is my reminder that life’s holy work begins with planting seeds and showering those seeds with joy and light.

Let's Dig A Hole

Plant the seeds of Joy and Light; Tend them carefully day and night,
In this soil so dark and deep, I plant the dreams that Love will reap.         (Psalm 97)


May we all have the capacity to plant the seeds that will ultimately reap great rewards for ourselves, our community, and our world; may we find gevurah sheh b’yesod, strength within foundation to make this happen.

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Throughout much of life, we wait. . . .

We wait for many things:

  • to grow up
  • the phone to ring
  • letters to come
  • life cycle events
  • to make a difference
  • the perfect job
  • news
  • sickness to turn to healing
  • appointments to happen
  • the right words to come
  • pain to end
  • joy to emerge
  • time to pass

Change takes time.

Living into the moment takes time.

With each breath, I am profoundly impacted by what is happening around me.  Just below the surface is beauty waiting for the right time to sprout up into the world.

Always waiting; always seeking patience.

But for now, I have to navigate life one breath at a time.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart

and try to love the questions themselves.

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be

given you because you would not be able

to live them.  And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then

gradually, without noticing it, live along some

distant day into the answers.


~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter to a Young Poet

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One of my favorite children songs/books of all time is Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.  This one story is quite possibly the most promising life-long teachings that we should be passing on to our children and remembering for ourselves.

In each or our lives, we will go through so many transitions, pathways, experiences, journeys.  We can come up for many euphemisms to express our life journeys, but the bottom-line is that we can’t go over it, under it, or around it. . . . .we have to go through it.  In the last months, I have been drawn to the symbol of doorways. Before recently moving from Washington DC to Tucson a friend gave me a door to paint and decorate with sayings and artwork that inspire moving through doorways.  I ended up leaving the door behind because I had not yet had the opportunity to do the work, but perhaps I shall find another door and try again.

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

Life happens, challenges loom, sadness reigns, joy emerges.  Each of us have  personal stories that help shape the people we are.  When you go through life’s passages, you ultimately come out the other side.  Perhaps you come through the doorway and feel elation, perhaps you feel battered, perhaps you feel success.  Feeling is ultimately a healthy emotion; facing life isn’t always easy, but for the most part it is the right thing to do.

With each breath, I often find myself needing to do reflect on where I am at any given moment.  As someone that now walks through life feeling my emotions intensely, I find myself needing to take deep breaths so that I don’t let any moment guide me to an unsavory place. Bad moments are not bad days; a joyous moment doesn’t necessarily mean a day will be all-around great.  Yet managing these emotions means we might find a day of balance as we navigate our feelings and actively engage in going through life’s different doorways.

Before my older son was born, I did not know physical pain of any kind and I ignored emotional pain.  In spite of not feeling pain, I still appeared somewhat normal, nothing and  nothing stopped me.  And then when I was pregnant, I had a minor accident; I tore the ligaments in my ankle for the third time.  Well there went my running career.  (I was never that fast, but I loved it!!)  That one event transformed me on a personal level in a way that I am not always certain I like.

In the ER the doctor looked at my foot and noticed a really huge problem; little did I know that his findings would alter my life forever.  He told me what was wrong with my foot/ankle and then he added that he had never seen anyone handle this pain in the same way that I did at that time; he said I should have been screaming in pain.  It amazed him so much that he invited other doctors/residents into my little cubicle.  At that point in my life, I did not know from physical pain and I didn’t really deal with emotional pain either.

Years of soul work has changed the reality of nearly 20 years ago, I now feel intensely.  I am fortunate to have the ability to move through most life journeys with calmness.  I might feel intensely, but that never gets in my way of moving through whatever good or challenging situations are being encountered at any given time.

Fifteen years ago and again two years ago, pain came in handy as a means of telling both my doctors and I that I had a major health concerns brewing that would warrant surgery.  Fifteen years ago, the doctor wasn’t a 100% certain that I was in major crisis because he felt I should be feeling more pain.  Both surgeries led to me becoming healthy again.  If the surgeries hadn’t of happened because I didn’t feel pain, my guess is is that I wouldn’t be here today.  (Note: Both surgeries were normal.  If I hadn’t felt pain, I would’t have been able to communicate with the doctors so that they could remedy the situations.)

Remember, the best way to navigate life’s journeys recognize that you can’t go over it, under it, or around it. . . .you got to go through it (the door).

May each of us find the tools we need to make going through life’s doorways as easy as possible.

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

Reflections Continued:

Since posting yesterday’s blog, I found myself contemplating what happiness means.   It Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers, it says, “Who is rich? He who is happy with what he has.” (4:1)  When I think about happiness on that level, that means that I am happy, yet when I think of happiness on my own, I think there should be a moment or more of radical joy.  Simchah for me is about that moment when you want to scream out in delight.  Yet the joy of Pirkei Avot is a lot more sustainable.

Based on Pirkei Avot, I am feeling really positive.  I am someone who finds the blessings in the present moments, the realities of life, and with those that are part of my life.  At the same time, I will always look for the moments of ecstatic joy.

Over the next 12 days I will be sharing my own personal commandments to be utilized as I seek my own path towards Simchah (Happiness).  I see the commandments as tools that have the ability to propel me towards meeting my goal and building a stronger foundation in terms of the role that simchah can play in my life.

Commandment 1: Be myself

In order to be myself, I need to know myself.  That isn’t necessarily easy, but it is a necessity.  In truth, I do know myself very well, but the next step can sometimes be a little more tricky.  Being yourself means trusting that it is ok to be yourself.

How can I make this happen?

  • trust myself
  • live according to my values
  • take time to write daily
  • honor my writing spirit

Being myself is a work in progress.  While I actively engage in being real or being myself, I also love connecting with people where they are.  I am a chameleon who can often fit wherever I am in that moment.

Recently, I had to reach inside my heart and decide how to best honor my soul.  The decision was painful, but making that decision led me to inner clarity and the ability to move forward.  Yay.

Moving any journey forward means listening to the inner voice that is meant to guide us.  Sometimes it can be an easy thing to do, but sometimes it is really hard.  For those that know me, I am often seen as being ‘crunchy granola’ in a non-granola world.  These are the values that make me who I am today.

Another way in which I can best honor myself is to make certain that I am writing on a regular basis.  Years ago I wrote:

Writing,                                                                                                                                         the song of my heart;                                                                                                                   the meaning of my mind;                                                                                                           the feeling of my soul;                                                                                                                   Is what makes me One.

Writing soothes my being.  If I am writing on a regular basis, it must mean that I am reaching for new heights and actively engaged in life.  The more I write the more centered I am.

Commandment 1: Be myself – May I continue to strive to reach new heights as I continue to grow.   By honoring the soul that is within me I will soar as the person I am.  And the simchah or happiness of Pirkei Avot will continue to flourish and the happiness radical joy will occur more frequently too.

Can you think of a personal commandment that you could create in order to develop a stronger foundation of simchah within your life?  If you’d like to share, I’d love to know.

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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has inspired me to take stock in how I walk through the world.  While I am generally someone who almost always finds the light within challenges, I am not someone who expresses pure joy easily.  I will benefit from developing my own tools or personal commandments to better strive for not only more contentment, but dare I say simchah (happiness) within my daily life.  For the next 13 days, I will become transparent as I actively develop my own personal Happiness Project.

I am struck by a very simple reality.  Even though I feel a strong sense of inner peace and contentment, I don’t necessarily feel real joy or happiness on a regular basis.  Intensity permeates my being; I am constantly reflecting the realities of world, the communities I live, and my own life too.  I love life and yet I, like so many, have become trapped by life’s realities.   Allowing oneself to be trapped does not serve us well.  My hope Is that by creating more simchah tools, I can go to a ‘happy place’ more frequently.

Perfection is far from my realm.  With each breath, I make mistakes.  This journey is a work in progress. Regardless of how perfect or imperfect things seem, feeling inner happiness more frequently is the goal. I’d love to find moments of pure simchah each and every day.  For me, finding simchah, can only happen when I find balance in spite of all the realities that exist as I celebrate the good.

As a seeker. I need to embrace the light more and to figure out the meaning of happiness on a personal level. While this may be the busiest time period in my life, I will post each day over the coming 13 days.  I will explore my own personal commandments towards my own search for happiness.

Simchah, joy, is one of the forty-eight middot (values) that are expressed/taught in Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Fahers. Each word in the book teaches us how to walk through life.  With that I will use my writing to explore my own personal eleven commandments over the coming days.  Who says there has to be only Ten Commandments?

Looking forward to finding out how my Eleven Commandments evolve through my writing and actions.  Hang on for the ride and consider letting me know your thoughts.  Over the next thirteen days, I will explore my personal commandments each day discussing one of the below commandments in order.  My guess is that some posts will be short and sweet and others will be a bit longer.

Growth can only come with action; my hope is that as I delve into my thoughts, I will utilize the tools that exist as a means of striving towards actively feeling and engaging in simchah.  On the last day, I will wrap up with this writing journey and try to move into more actively engaging in joy while utilizing each of the tools that touch me.

Personal Commandments are

  1. Be myself.
  2. Be the change you want to see in the world
  3. Take spiritual time each day
  4. Live more consciously
  5. Seek peaceful connections
  6. Honor your body
  7. Breathe deeply
  8. Listen before speaking
  9. Find the light
  10. Trust the universe
  11. Allow nothingness

This list is inspired by the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Catch you tomorrow as I explore the first commandment and work towards transformation.

l’Chayim (To life),


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The Journey Song

Lyrics by Debbie Friedman z”l and Tamara Ruth Cohen; music by Debbie Friedman

Where does the journey begin?
Where will we go?
Hours pass, the answers might change
As we keep moving along.

Each Friday night, I light my Shabbat Candles and then recite the blessings to the niggun (tune) of the above song.  I think it is my way of acknowledging that life is always a journey.  With each Shabbat, I can look back to the journey of the past week and celebrate so much of what has been and is.

Like my sister, Miriam, before me, I am doing the dance across the sea.  Instead of timbrels in my hand, I hold my drum and I move with all my heart and soul.

Every day of my life is a journey towards the living.  I am blessed with my ability to breath deeply and with the beat of my heart.  I am also blessed to be a work in progress that is transitioning towards being a sounder and healthier me. I am truly a woman who is filled with so much joy even when I navigate some dark moments.  My life is a gift.

Today I celebrate my 45th birthday.  Grappling with life’s questions and allowing time to answer the questions of my soul is what I do.

The celebration of my life is intense this year; I am not certain why.  It could be that I have just completed counting 45 days towards building an even better foundation for myself.  In truth, while intellectually I know it is huge deal, it ended up being easy to live with the choices I have made.

Forty-seven days ago, I went to the doctor and he told me that due to some health challenges that I had to take myself off of all caffeine and soda. I knew he was correct in his wisdom, plus I decided to take myself off of all added sweeteners (fake and real) with the exception of honey.  Sweeteners are trigger foods for me and they feed into addiction.  Since I have always struggled with weight and food addiction, I decided it was time to take the ‘bull by the horns’ and actively seek a healthy me.

What has happened is that I dropped over 30 lbs; I feel better; and I have more visions for my future.  My mind is so much less foggy and my drive and intuition seems to be soaring.  I am feeling grounded and joyful in ways that I have rarely felt.  While losing the weight is awesome, what I am valuing most is my ability to find my derekh, my prana, my path with much more clarity.

And what I found most profound about this part of my journey is that I had a fairly tough time for only a couple of days.  Days three and four of weaning myself off of highly addictive foods was tough, but then it was really easy.  My body has adapted to these food changes easily; it is as if I should have been this way all along!!  My body is responding exactly as if I am giving it what it needs and it is appreciating my new choices.

With each passing year I am learning to do more things to honor myself.  That doesn’t always come easy, but it is now an integral part of my life.  In order to love myself fully, I have to take care of myself and allow myself wings to fly.

My world is wide open.  While it is still unclear exactly how I will evolve, I am thriving in so many ways and it is my hope that this year will be filled with fabulous physical health.  My body needs to start becoming a sacred vessel in the same way I take care of my spiritual self.  The soul work that I have been doing now needs to make room for a healthier and more conscious physical being.  I am alive.  I want my inner being to be filled with incredible light, spiritual energy, and physical strength.  Only through loving my body, my mind, and my soul will I become that light.

My amazing journey continues. . . .

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א֖וֹר זָרֻ֣עַ לַצַּדִּ֑יק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי־לֵ֥ב שִׂמְחָֽה

Light is sown for the righteous and for the upright in the heart – joy. (Psalm 97:11)

Rabbi Shefa Gold’s interpretive chant http://www.rabbishefagold.com/planting-seeds-orzarua/ utilizes the above Hebrew and the following words:

Plant the seeds of Joy and Light; Tend them carefully day and night,
In this soil so dark and deep, I plant the dreams that Love will reap.  (Psalm 97:11)

Lavender photo

I love following the path of light; to me light is filled with a warm soothing joy that penetrates my soul on a cellular level.  I love knowing that even when life feels cloudy, I can always find the light!  If I didn’t have the light as my guide, I would have faded away long ago.

On a core level, I am a good person; I am no angel, but I strive to make good choices although sometimes I miss the mark.  I am passionate about much of what I think and I live life fully; those two attributes sometimes collide with taking a deep breath before I act.  Loving life as I do means that I often soar towards making my dreams come true and my ideas realized.  Following my heart is how I move through life.  When I listen to the rhythm of my heart, my potential to succeed is always a possibility.

Sometimes I have to pause before taking flight; I have to allow silence to guide me until I better understand how the pieces to life’s puzzle are meant to come together.  I have always been blessed with an intuitive nature.  My intuition allows me to trust the path that life takes me.  What I have learned over the past few years is that while laughter and music fuel my every move, it is the chant followed by an intense silence that propels me to the most honest place I can go.

Above is the chant that has proven time and time again to be a source of growth for me.  The words remind me of my need to continue following my own derekh (path) of spreading seeds of joy and light in all that I do.  Even when darkness seems to loom overhead, I need to keep moving forward and planting seeds of joy and light.

Reality can be looked at in so many ways.

Many would say that life isn’t easy; in fact life is full of challenges.  When times are tough it is not easy to find the light or to find the joy.  But I do believe that you can absolutely find a positive moment as you wade through the tough stuff.  Perhaps not in the midst of tragedy, but I would challenge each of us to look for moments of light (if not joy) in even the most difficult of moments.

My life has had a few tragic moments and years of darkness, but I don’t think it is in me to live in that darkness.  I have always found a moment of joy even in the harshest of moments.

For those of you that have read my blog in the past, you might know that my older son Aryeh went through a few rough years to put it mildly.  As he laid the hospital bed du jour, each time the doctors/nurses would try to check his cognitive function by asking him questions with obvious answers.  Anyone that has a teenager (or any child for that matter) should realize that very few answers are obvious.  For instance, 1+1, why would anyone in their right mind think that it equals 2?  I can’t remember a day when Aryeh would answer 1+1 = 2, his answer was always 3!!!  In any case, as my son struggled for health every medical professional that used that simple equation to check my son’s cognitive function would totally flip for a moment as those of us who knew Aryeh well would LAUGH.  (Note: Don’t even try to figure how 1+1=3, I will blog about that soon.)  Yes, times were painful, but what I know for certain is that I had to find reasons to laugh or to see moments of light in order to get through the darkness. Those moments build on one another so that regardless of what transitions occur, one can look back and see moments of light.

When we sit in darkness, it is darkness that surrounds us.  Without even the smallest moments of light, life ceases to exist.  The chant above allows me the opportunity to see the possibilities when we plant the seeds of life in the darkness that also feels overwhelming.  As long as we are planting seeds, we are trying to reach for our dreams!

Look back at the people that have most influenced your life for good.  Did you notice their joy or their sadness more? Did you notice their kindness or their moodiness? Do the people you most admire embrace life fully and do they find joy as they live their life?

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