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With a broken heart, I take a cleansing breath. Aren’t all of our hearts broken by living life as we do?

I inhale the light
I exhale the darkness

I inhale the blessings
I exhale the pain

I inhale the love
I exhale the loneliness

I inhale the gifts
I exhale the challenges

And with each breath, I am responding to the rhythms of our universe, of my world. I inhale the beauty and I exhale that which needs to be released.

Always Healing

Picture by Chava

I have always opened my heart and spirit to feel the realities that surround me. And yet, I have moments when I simply feel invisible – that is only part of the story.

I inhale when I am seen
I exhale when I feel invisible

Everyone is invited to a gathering, but me.
My heartfelt text messages go unanswered.
Someone I love closes the door without so much as a word.
All of the above leaving me to wonder and wonder some more. . . .

And yet I wake up each day knowing that I matter even in the moments that I feel unseen. My village shows up and surrounds me with love even when they sometimes forget to invite me into their lives.

The connection ultimately transcends the ego – always.

The call in the middle night from a friend in crisis reminds me that I am seen. My friend knows that my door is open any time I am needed.

And then there are the friends that reach out when they want me to create a sacred cleansing ritual for their new home. I am known for burning sage, chanting, and drumming as a way to allow for a new and sweet energy to emerge into any new home.

I am here to listen to both pain and joy.
I am here to ride the waves of devastation and new beginnings.
I am here to climb mountains and navigate valleys.
I am here for life and I am here for death.
I am here, Hineini. 

With an open heart and deep love, I am here – I will always be here through gifts and challenges.

Breathe

Artwork by Chava Gal-Or; Text is from A Reflection On Nishmat by Rabbi David J. Cooper

Dichotomies fill every moment or reality in life; and with each moment comes an inhale followed by an exhale.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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

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

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

This is my journey in life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love, light, hope, and blessings,
Chava

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prologue:

Over the coming period of time, I will share how I use writing to quiet my mind, to navigate darkness, to center my spirit, and to propel myself forward.  As Joan Didion says,

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,
what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear.”

For various reasons, I often feel silenced. This is not working for me any longer. People have every right to interpret my words in any way they want. Take what touches you and move forward as you wish. But here is one thing that you, the reader, should know – Once I release my words into the universe, they have come to do what they were meant to do.

While I share my writing unapologetically, I also write because I have no choice, it is how I am best able to walk in the world.

I am EnoughWriting,
th
e song of my heart;
th
e meaning of my mind;
the 
feeling of my soul;
I
s what makes me One.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 The last few couple of months have stretched me and inspired me to see my reflection in ways that surprised me. I am facing new fears in very direct ways and having the honesty that I need to move forward.

 If you asked me what am I most afraid of in my life? I would have a really hard time answering you. You see, I struggle with overwhelming vulnerability at times and yet, I always emerge. I have a way of doing the dance of life that allows me to navigate even when I feel like I am suffocating.

Recently, I have faced loss and heartbreak, I have also navigated loneliness more honestly than ever before. And I have started spiritual work that forces me to really look at myself in the mirror. Admitting vulnerability can be transformative or crippling. I am shooting for transformative. I am reaching for the stars and moving, always moving, forward. I am not sure that I have a choice.

When I allow myself to go there, darkness seems be a little too present in my life these days (and nights too). So much so that I have wondered, ‘How did I ever think I should change my last name, Gal-Or, or wave of light?’ I must have been a fool. And then I realize that I have to stop then negative self-talk and own what I fear most in my life. I am so afraid that  I am afraid that I will never be enough, do enough to make the world a better place, or be loved enough because I am not worthy enough.

Quieting that ridiculous inner voice and actively engaging in the world as I do should be easier than it is. And yet, I have to consciously decide to:

  • breathe deeply
  • read and listen to inspirational people
  • write and then write some more
  • laugh as much as possible
  • chant
  • walk and keep walking
  • take time to connect with those I adore (especially my sons, my animals, and my closest friends)
  • play
  • always embrace my vocations, my job and my new nonprofit – Door l’Door). I am so blessed to so what I love.
  • have family dinners
  • listen to music that lifts me up

Nurturing my spirit takes so much work and doing the above soul work is the only way I know to come to a place of knowing/believing that I may actually be enough.

While taking care of myself means remembering to do what I need to do, it is also important to release that which doesn’t serve me any longer.  This is profoundly sad to me and so important too. By letting go of what doesn’t work, I make space for the infinite possibilities that surround me. With an open door, new opportunities abound.

Yes, life is hard, but I don’t have to make it any harder than it is. As long as I remember:

Rising above my fears is not an option. I am enough. I got this!!

With that in mind, I want to share this AMAZING and inspirational music video called Rise by Mikey Pauker. If you haven’t heard it or even if you have, listen and then listen again. (link below)

May we all face our vulnerabilities and do the work of growing.

With love, light, & blessings,
Chava

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8l6KS23LKk

 

 

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24 hours = 500,000 #MeToo tweets + 12 million #MeToo FB posts, comments & reactions. #MeToo is about women screaming out and saying that they were sexually violated. This has been a profound experience for because it took me decades to find my voice and tell anyone what happened.

As a young child, a neighbor who was also a friend’s father molested me on a regular basis.

And then at 14 years old, my best friend’s step-father molested me multiple times and raped me. There was no one to talk to and no one to listen. I was alone. This came at a time when the foster care system became my stomping ground because my mother couldn’t control her violent rages. Tracy’s family had wanted to take me in and treat me as their own, but Gary believed he had the right to do as he wished with my body and ultimately my soul. And he did.

Years later, I don’t really relate to the acts as being sexual assault; I seem them as violent acts. I was forced to endure what no child or adult should experience. In my mind, I was violated and thrust into the world of #MeToo.

Sunday night, I found myself in a total PTSD (or post traumatic stress disorder) meltdown. As #MeToo unfolded and then became viral, I found myself reliving the agony of those experiences and later the re-surfacing of those experiences. For just a couple of hours, I was temporarily back into the devastation mode. I remembered. I hurt. But I and so many others were being heard. How beautiful is that?!?! I was touched each and every time I saw a Facebook status line that said, “I believe”, “I hear you”, and “I am sorry”.

I’ve done a lot of healing work over the years. I also have done my part to empower young women as a way to break the cycle, and now I am sharing part of my story. And perhaps the best thing is that I have parented two amazing sons that understand that they have a responsibility moving forward. And after this past weekend, there a whole lot of women that know that they are not alone and a large group of witnesses to support them.

May we do this work together. May #MeToo become #NoMOre.

Image result for #MeToo No more

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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 . . . .]

Creating Your Makom Kadosh,
Your Sacred Place

pet-rock

As a writer, I have always fallen in love with sweet nooks that inspire my words to flow.

Until the last few years, I would plop myself down anywhere and write, but that isn’t the case now. But during my two-year Kol Zimra, Chant Leader’s Training with Rabbi Shefa Gold, my relationship to space changed. During this amazing series of workshops in New Mexico, I began to appreciate how creating a spiritual space enhanced my ability to dig deeper within myself allowing me to ultimately pull out ideas and thoughts worthy of sharing with others. I also began to understand that if I surrounded myself with beauty and calm energy, my entire spirit would soar.

My spirituality has developed significantly now that I am more cognizant of my surroundings. Today not only do I spend time writing, but I also take the time to chant, drum, dance, and pray. I think about my space when I eat, cook, read, and simply take time to breathe. Surrounding myself with what resonates within me enables me to a happier and calmer person.

Many moving parts combined create a sacred space for me. Over the years, I have learned that less is more. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist exactly, but I aspire to surround myself with only that which jazzes my soul. I want to love each of every fiber within my space. I am sensitive to colors, lighting, textures, smells. In the background, I always have a sense of the sounds; sometimes I want to hear nigunim (wordless melodies), sometimes chanting, sometimes rock, sometimes folk, and sometimes the sounds of the outdoors is perfect for my spirit. There are times I want to listen and times I want to sing, but I creatively ignite when hearing the songs and melodies that touch me deeply.

Years ago, I also discovered that life needs be part of my surroundings. Plants, flowers, herbs, and animals only enhance my mood. There is something heart-warming about being enveloped by life or by natural beauty.  My disposition tends to do better when I am around earthiness.

With all of this in mind, I am so looking forward to moving to Houston in ten days where I can establish a nurturing foundation that embraces who I am and where I can feel at home with my soul.

In my heart, I believe that in order to be content with what is, each of us need to love wherever we are standing or work towards whatever it is that we think we feel would be right for us.

Think about it, what do you need in order to make your personal space sacred.

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 . . . .]

Lake Louisa - Spring 2015

“The calm mind allows one to connect with the inner self, the Soul,
the very source of our being. That’s where the music lives.
That’s where my music comes from”.
~Clarence Clemons

Honoring My Journey Towards Wholeness means that even as I accept life’s many moving parts, I also need to take the time to quiet my body, mind, and soul.

So, tonight I decided to take a long walk and many deep breaths which ultimately allowed for sweet nigunim (wordless melodies) to fill my soul. The calm winds blowing over the lakefront offered my spirit exactly what it needed.

After my hour or so outdoors, I felt so much more connected to my breath and balanced too.

May nurturing our spirits become a norm within our lives.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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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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