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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Onward with light & love,
Chava

 

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Inca trail to Macchu Piccu -Credit Lauren Rader's Art and Releasing the Creative Powers Within Classes

Inca Trail to Macchu Piccu; Photo Credit: Lauren Rader

A year ago I was in a very different place. Even though I was able to do what I needed to do, I was despondent and not sure how I would muster the strength each day to not only sustain my family, but to create that which would jazz my soul.  I was struggling with all of life’s moving parts.

With a baggage of regret and deep sadness, I began a trek that would lead me to dig deeply in hopes of finding a better direction for my life. With the help of friends, I packed up a storage space with most of my belongings in Tucson and my family moved to a friend’s house between no-where and no-where else in Louisa, Virginia.

Over a tough period of time, I navigated so much loss – job, friendships, and a sense of belonging.  I also questioned whether or not it was time to leave a profession I loved. Today I can look at most of the losses a little differently than I did at first. The best things about closed doors is that you know EXACTLY where you stand.

Each and every step of the way, gifts emerged when I least expected it. When I couldn’t afford groceries, provisions and/or money showed up; other times friends showed up in unexpected ways. Even part time jobs found their way into my life, I, quite literally, had what I needed to care for my sons – ALWAYS. And when the sink busted at my friends house, a neighbor saved the day. And when the toilet busted. . . I saved the day! I really did learn what it meant both ask for help and to rely on myself.

Throughout the journey my sons, Aryeh and Dovi, grew and evolved. It isn’t my place to tell their stories, but I am so proud of the young men that they became. Both of the guys navigated the best way they knew how. And we did it as a family!

Funny how looking back is hard now and yet it was nearly impossible to look forward when but when life was the toughest.

If I am completely honest with myself, my struggles began nearly three years ago when I realized my move to Tucson was professionally not a good move. In retrospect, it was a great decision because that move probably got me to where I am today. I believe that all that happens in life makes up where we are in this moment. If so, Tucson’s toxic work environment made me stronger and more clear in what I wanted for my life. It also gave me some amazing connections and allowed me to more clearly see the many beloveds in my life.  Wow!!

I don’t know how to thank each person/family that gave me money to sustain myself or those that enabled me to find rewarding work along the way. Many guardian angels gave their love, their time, their skills, their money, and their prayers or positive energy. When my computers died, a refurbished one showed up. When I needed enlightenment, an inspiring book showed up. When my car died (many times), people helped. When my tears were falling, music propelled me to new heights. All of this happened because of the graciousness of those that believed in me. Even as I write this, tears are welling in my eyes. I may still be struggling, but life is AWEsome. Because of so many, I am blessed and thriving (and my sons are too)!

Today I am working in a community in Houston that warms my heart and inspires me to stretch; together with so many others, I am working to create an amazing learning environment for all.  I am also starting to plan how to birth my nonprofit, My Second Foundation, which will create retreats for adult survivors of childhood trauma. And I am finally taking steps to make a difference in the world. Human rights for all has always been a driving force, so now I am actively engaging in actions that I believe will make a difference. At least, I am able to show up for all of life.

In my free time, I am doing so much to nurture my spirit. I am working with a beloved friend Rabbi Jill Zimmerman who has created Hineni: The Mindful Heart Community. (Check out http://www.ravjill.com/hineni-the-mindful-heart-community/ and consider joining this group, it is simply empowering.) I am also writing, drumming, chanting, and connecting with the earth. I am endeavoring to honor the person I am by allowing my energy to flow. I am also becoming more authentic with each step I take.

So while the last years have caused me to reflect and to climb many mountains, they have also enabled me to shine and to emerge as the woman I am.  I am finding balance and hopefully allowing my spirit to better shine.

Loving the universe. Feeling the blessings. Treasuring what is.

May I always find the AWEsomeness in life’s gifts and challenges. May I always see my guardian angels.

O N W A R D!!!!
Chava

(Note: My hope and my prayer is that I am as loving a soul as so many have been to me and my family.)

 

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“there is no map.
you gotta write your own.
you gotta carve your own.
you gotta sweat, cry, grieve,
laugh, and love your own.
and when you’re all done,
that’s all that will have mattered.”
© Terri St. Cloud

Life has been filled with amazing gifts and undeniably difficult journeys. Yet, I have been blessed with the ability to ALWAYS find ways to navigate. In my younger years, I often felt alone; over the last half of my life, I have felt held and loved with every step.

As I move towards my 50th birthday, I am intrigued by how far I have come. But lest you think it is about the specifics of my life, it isn’t. Each and every one of us are unique. While we may have those that guide us in our journeys, there is no one like me (or you) out there. We can learn from others, but they can’t make the trek for us.

Tonight, as I was talking to a friend. I realized that I could tell her how I would move through a challenging situation, but then I stopped myself. Sharing my intuition or my insight is one thing, but I am not qualified to do more than share. My friend has to make her own decisions.

Light and blessings surround me at every turn. Dark moments happen, but enlightening sparks are never far behind. I have always emerged from sadness, pain, violence, and challenges. That has been my choice. . .it is what I do. Not only do I emerge, but I soar. I find the gifts within the challenges, the light within the darkness.

I love that my map is guided by my spirit; I am one of the luckiest people I know.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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more than anything
i want to trust a journey
that i don’t understand~
© Terri St. Cloud

I am a wandering Jew, a seeker, a dreamer. . .

While I was not born with wings, I was born with the urge to soar and the spirit to thrive.

Each and every exploration I take begins with a first step.  The terrain is always the wilderness, a terrain that I will only understand after I trust my steps and begin the dance of emergence.

 A lifetime of journeys never calms my spirit when it is time to start again. As someone who is ready to land and wants to do not just good things wherever I stand, but great things wherever I stand and beyond. I long to be impactful with how I walk in the world. I want to make a difference.

An inherent pressure emanates from those of us that actively strive to weave beauty and light into a world that is often full of challenges. There is so much holy work to be done and so many opportunities to make our voices count.

There is another side to my journey, perhaps a more important one. I am birthing the most authentic living soul I can be. I am ready to nurture that person as she becomes more grounded in what she truly believes. It is time to have my values and my dreams intersect in the healthiest of ways. I strive to walk consciously by caring for my body, my mind, and my soul. And as I do, my hope is that I will remember the larger world around me.

I have traveled some really rocky paths. I have stumbled, I have fallen, I have cried torrential downpours, but I have always continued to move forward. As a work in progress, my innermost prayer is that all previous journeys create someone worthy of making my next steps count.

May this trek weave together my desire to take care of the deepest part of me while intensely nurturing the world I live in, our world.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?”
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Father) 1:14

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If you do not breathe through writing,
if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing,
then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.
~A
nais Nin

I am a writer. In the core of my being, I am most comfortable expressing myself through the written word.

Recently, I have been astounded by people questioning the transparency of my writing.  Is there any other way? I think not.

My teacher (who has no idea who I am) is Anne Lamott; she has taught me to write with complete integrity, to share fully, and to not be ashamed of my thoughts and feelings.  One of my favorite teachings that can be found in her book, Bird by Bird, and also in her CD titled, Word by Word, is that I have a right to share my story.  If people didn’t want me to talk bad about them, they should have never done the things they did.  So while, I generally refrain from giving a ton of the darker details of my life, I do have Anne’s voice as my guide.  And her voice resonates-always. Each of her books (and now Facebook status lines) is an example of someone who speaks what she feels from her kishkes (guts). Lamott shares the good, the challenging, the ugly; Anne is a beautiful work in progress. I aspire to have her voice as my guide whenever I am sharing my voice, my thoughts, my writing.

Each and every one of my  written (and spoken) words come from my heart and are part of my essence.  If I write them to you personally, imagine that I am giving you the gift of my heart and soul. Imagine that you are worthy of my truest love.

And for the reader that reads my blog. . . I am sharing with you my purest being. In the moment that I am sharing my thoughts, know that they are coming from the deepest part of me.

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

I am a writer. My words matter and have the power to impact.  My hope is to touch people in ways that make a difference in their lives; simultaneously I feel a positive energy with each and every letter and space that is part of my writing.  The rhythm of my soul is out there for anyone to treasure or to toss out.  Why would I want it any other way?

When I write, I am giving you, the reader, a part of my me.  With each word, I am weaving a personal idea, a thought, a dream; I am sharing the deepest part of the person that I have become.  And yet, what I write one moment, may evolve in another moment; I never stop thinking or growing.

With each breath, I have experienced the fullness that life has had to offer – sometimes with beauty, sometimes with pain, always finding sparks of light.  I am the person I am because of the life I have lived.  Life has blessed me with the ability to look inwards and to evolve as the trek emerges.  With each step, I write as a way to process all that was, is and will be. Capturing the many moving parts of my heart, my soul, and my mind is what I do.  Through writing, I allow the words to flow onto the page and to cleanse my being.  And sometimes, if luck will have it, my words can do something magical for someone else too.

My transparency is a gift.  I welcome you to experience a world that is mine.  Is it rational? Not always.  Is it precious? To me.  Are the moments when my emotions are intense? Of course.

May my words continue to be real –  now and always.
May my words help me stay balanced in a world that often feels off balance.
May my words inspire people in small and large ways.

May I always have the character to ‘say what I need to say’.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Morning Pages Binder

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“. . . do small things with great love.”
Quote by Mother Teresa

As I approach some profound changes in my life, I am navigating the most intense vulnerability that I have ever experienced.  If left to my own devices, I would be crying non-stop with each bridge that I am crossing.  The tears wouldn’t all be sad nor would they all be happy; they would fluctuate from moment to moment.  Transparent transition is the gift I am choosing to live by. (Note: I almost feel like I am embodying Anne Lamott’s spirit with each and every blog entry. :))

Over the last year, I have felt sucker-punched and loved at nearly equal proportions.  The good news is that today I am feeling more love and support than I am feeling the harshness of being sucker-punched.  The journey that I am taking has been both challenging and intense.  I have had to face what it means to lose a job and left without the financial ability to take care of my sons; I have also experienced the gifts of having friends and acquaintances help me to secure positions that mostly allow me meet my family’s most basic needs.

As the Gal-Or/Grossman Family prepares to move to the East Coast, I know that it would not have been possible if it weren’t for the support of so many people.  We have been touched by people helping us in a myriad of ways, too many ways to list.  Ironically, I believe that I have personally felt equally impacted by each and every person that has given in whatever way they deemed appropriate.  There have been absolutely no small offerings.

With each step, I have had no expectation that anyone would reach out and help.  For some silly reason, I initially felt alone and very scared.  It is quite daunting to go through dark experiences and believe you will land on your feet.  But truthfully, while life has tossed me some vicious punches; I have been enveloped by love and support for entire second half or more of my life.  I am surrounded by people that have held on to our family while we walked through fire.  Over the years, I have truthfully been far from alone.

Monday night was another example of how one friend brought happy tears to my eyes and warmed my heart.  I am blessed, so very blessed.

Before I share about the amazing treasure I received from Indianapolis, I have to tell a story.

A few weeks ago, I was kvetching on Facebook about how much I am missing the changing of seasons.  I love seeing the leaves change; it rocks my world.  At the time, I was just whining, I had no expectation that I would see autumn leaves this year.  Why would I? I am in the middle of the desert.  🙂  (To be honest, there are changing leaves on Mount Lemmon; that’s not so far.  I just couldn’t get there because of my work and packing schedule.)

Well. . .all my kvetching got the attention of my beloved weird sistah, Ren Fortang, in Indianapolis.  During our exchanged she promised to send me some leaves from her yard.  AND SHE DID!!! Her little package was full of happiness for me. I couldn’t have been happier if I tried.

Leaves from Ren

 

To be honest, the leaves made me the happiest; I couldn’t believe Ren pulled off such an amazing gift.  AND I loved every square inch of the gift from the envelope it came in, to the pin which quoted Mother Teresa, “. . .do small things with great love.”  Ren even included the new CD from Bruce Springsteen, one of my favorite singer/songwriters.  Every square inch of this little gift package nurtured my soul.  (Do you think this blog can replace a thank you note?)

Now just because I love the term basheret, it was meant to be, I want to share that after opening Ren’s gift I was reading Stitches: A Handbook On Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott and on page 14, I found Mother Teresa’s quote, the same quote that was on the pin.  My guess is that there is a huge lesson there, so I better listen up!

Ren’s gift is symbolic of the beauty that continues to flow as I emerge from some challenging times and take on my next adventure.  I couldn’t have made it this far without the enormous support that has surrounded me; I have received so many treasures over the past year and years before that too.  I truly believe that when we consciously walk in the world with an open heart and love to share, the world will ultimately grow into a healthier place.   My friends have shown me this and I hope to continue paying it forward with each and every step of my life.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – We have been blessed with nearly 70 people giving to our Go Fund Me Drive – http://www.gofundme.com/g8o220

 

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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775  http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is 20 Elul or 10 days until 5775; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move towards the High Holy Days and the days that follow.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

During each blog post of my Elul Journeys, I will share a poem, a saying, a teaching that has helped me navigate the world.  Let me know what you think!

~ ~ ~

Return Again

Return again, return again
Return to the land of your Soul
Ret
urn again, return again
R
eturn to the land of your Soul

Return to what you are, return to who you are
Return to where you are
Born and reborn again
Return again, return again,
Return to the land of your Soul
Return again, return again
Return to the land of your Soul…

Music: Shlomo Carlebach
Lyrics: Rafael-Simkba Kahn
© Schlomo Carlebach All Rights Reserved

~ ~ ~

The month of Elul inspires me to reflect, to really question have I been honoring myself by living consciously and honestly.  Am I serving the the world I live with integrity and thoughtfulness? Am I nurturing the person I am and striving to reach my full potential?  Am I listening to the silent voice inside of me that has always aspired to make healthy choices for not only my physical world, but for the world that surrounds me regardless of how close or far?  Am I doing the things that jazz my soul?

Everything we do matters? Everything we think can impact our lives and the lives of those around us.  Am I living in a way that exhibits those realities?

During my Elul Journey, I have chosen to take this trek one step further.  I have decided to be more transparent by sharing how I walk through the world with you as well as most of the people that cross my path.  In the recent years, I have grown to like who I am; I want the ‘real me’ to be the person that folks get to know. Today, I am actively returning to my roots and growing stronger roots with each step I take.

Each of us are born with our own essence; may we be blessed to fuel the parts of our being that make us feel the most whole as we strive to grow with each breath.

With blessings & light,
Chava

Live you way - Jung saying

With blessings & light,
Chava

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