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Posts Tagged ‘values’

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 . . . .]

Seeking Balance

Drawing courtesy of Jennifer Judelsohn from her book Songs of Creations

Drawing courtesy of Jennifer Judelsohn from her book Songs of Creations

Over the last year, I have become aware that many feel the need to enlighten me in some way. Friends feel inclined to judge my politics, my ideas, and/or my values. And if I am going to be totally honest, the feeling is mutual.

I am grappling with how people communicate or disagree with one another. In all honesty, there are so many real issues that are causing internal struggles for those that care.  The question I am asking myself is where do I draw the line between what I deem to be a view which is different from mine versus a view that is fueled by what may be perceived as prejudice or baseless hatred.

With each breath, I am seeking the balance to see clearly and to trust the integrity of those in my world.

The key seems to be trusting that those I call friend always start from good intentions even if I don’t agree with them. I really am blessed to find good people in my life that openly care and remind me that make me think.

May I always surround myself with people that inspire me to think and who value my ability to make them think.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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Truth

Last night, as I closed my eyes, my mind started to focus on the role of truth in our lives.

With that two Jewish teachings popped into my mind.

Teaching One

The world stands on three things:
on justice, on truth, and on peace.
Mishna, Avot 1:18

and

Teaching Two

Truth vs Falsehood
אֱמֶת ושֶׁקֶר

“The Talmud (104a) finds great significance in the form and order of the Hebrew alphabet, devoting nearly a page to understanding the symbolism behind the order and design of the alphabet. The most famous of these passages is the analysis of the Hebrew words for truth and falsehood, emet and sheker. The base of the letters (aleph mem taav) of emet is solid, while the letters of sheker (shin kuf reish) are wobbly, having only one “leg” each. Furthermore, the letters of sheker are the 21st, 19th and 20th letters respectively; whereas emet has the first, last, and middle letters of the alphabet. While one may have to look for truth, truth is true everywhere; whereas lies, readily available, have to be constantly updated for each new situation.”
By Rabbi Jay Kelman in http://bit.ly/1ExqL1c

Both teachings focus on the significance of truth within our lives.  Balance really is much easier to find when you focus on living a life a truth.  I love that Judaism surrounds me with teachings that support the act of living consciously.  And I am fortunate that in this moment it supports what I intuitively believe around truth vs falsehood….Jewish teachings don’t always work so easily. 🙂

Making Truth vs Falsehood Personal

Throughout my life I have experienced deception on so many levels both big and small.  Sometimes it is as simple as navigating half-truths or silence; sometimes it is as complicated as denial or downright lies.  But as I move into what could be the second half of my life, I realize that I want to live in a place of authenticity and grace regardless of where I stand.

In my life, I have, like many of us, been known for being silent or sharing only half truths and I have experienced the same realities from those in my life.  As I move forward in my life, I crave people that inspire transparency and allow me the space to be transparent.  Whether friend or lover, employer or employee, I want to be surrounded with people that don’t need to hide behind half-truths or downright lies. I also want to be the person that can hear both what is being said and what is not being said.

Trusting my heart to receive the truth and to share the truths will only happen as I develop a practice that is worthy of such a life. In order to make trust an integral part of my life, I need to first make practice a conscious one. I prefer to choose to live with integrity and surround myself with those that live in a place with a similar practice.

When considering Teaching One (see above), I find myself faced with a question.  How can we have justice, truth, and peace with each interaction? We can’t – of course.  Justice and truth do not always leave us with a sense of peace.  Dealing with truth and sometimes justice can be hard.  Our feelings are a huge variable in this journey.  And what feels good to one isn’t necessarily good for others.  Ugh!

Lately, I have been considering the role of true friends in my life.  I am actively trying to find a way to navigate those that really see things in a way that I find, quite honestly, sick.  How can they be close friends if their values or thought processes make me extremely uncomfortable.  Recently, a childhood friend became furious with me because of an article I posted on Facebook.  In truth, this person is sort of like family. I shouldn’t have been happy to have her out of my Facebook life, but I was thrilled!  We all have own truths, our own ways of seeing things.  And sometimes, I just don’t want to debate or to hear the other side. . . I have to, how else will I learn?  Sigh. Balance. . .always working towards finding balance.

When you don’t like how someone thinks, it is really challenging to navigate a warm relationship in which peace can grow.  There is no way that someone can convince me that that certain politics makes sense.  PERIOD. I don’t understand how people shop at Walmart when they don’t need to. Why would anyone that understands slave labor purchase products that support such practices.  And if I have to silence my passions, can I be in a place of truth within a friendship.  In the same way that each of us have our own truths, each of us also have to choose how to live and to make decisions based on our values.  Aren’t we all evolving?

I am struggling.

And since I am already a little cranky about how to connect with people when I dislike some of their values and belief systems, why not explore another challenging aspect of my struggle with truth.

I am learning; I am growing.

Not everyone feels the need to share their soul or raw energy as openly as I do – that has to be ok.  I am blessed with so many different types of people in my world and not all of them walk in the world as I do.  Just because someone chooses not to share the entire picture, doesn’t mean they are speaking a half-truth or falsehood.  Does it?

Close relationships may be the perfect place to hold back just a little.  Do we really need to fully express our feelings to those closest to us? As a mother, I wonder.  Part of helping my sons to develop into secure adults is by allowing them the room to express themselves without me needing to influence them.  With them, I am learning to say that I think it is best for me to refrain from sharing my thoughts at this time so that they can best figure out their thoughts for themselves.  But what about a partner or a spouse, sometimes we feel like we need to know everything, but other times people need their space.

The key to all interactions is realizing your non-negotiables, what aren’t you willing to be flexible about. Finding balance is not as easy as always being in truthful place, but to me I keep seeking to find the best way to navigate with others; I need to cultivate the solid footing that comes with walking the path of אֱמֶת, truth. Perhaps what I need is to hold myself with transparency and grace, then I can hope to surround myself with those that do the same.

Relationships are so complicated.

“The Universe doesn’t like secrets.
It conspires to reveal the truth, to lead you to it.”
― Lisa Unger, Beautiful Lies

May truth emerge in each and every human interaction.

 

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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 26 Elul or 4 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!

~ ~ ~

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of  difference you want to make.”
Jane Goodall
Primatologist, Anthropologist, and U.N. Messenger of Peace

~ ~ ~

(Note: Before you read this blog entry, know that I am fairly hard on myself.  I believe that everything I do in life can impact the world for good and for bad.  Every interaction I have with people or the environment can make a difference.  So I try to walk in the world knowing that I need to be mindful at all times.  And since I am being brutally honest, I try to surround myself with people that embody conscious living as they walk in the world.  I want to connect with people that believe in their power and actively want to make a difference for good.)

Everything we do matters.

AND we cannot sustain equal intensity in all areas of our lives.  Sometimes we have to decide what focuses we will have.  My hope is that each of us decide on 3-5 actions that can impact the world in positive ways.   And while I am at it, let me throw out the idea that living positively needs to begin at home.

Each of us will define home according to our own uniqueness.  For some of us, it is simply our own little family unit; for others, it could be their spiritual community; and for others, it could be their neighborhood, their community, their spiritual community, their ethnic group.. . .the list can go on and on.

Take a moment and consider what you can do in your life to make the world a little bit healthier than it currently is.  Below I will share a few things on my family’s list.

  1. Take a moment to smile or have a sweet verbal exchange with nearly everyone I meet.
  2. Make time for the people and things that jazz you.
  3. Always consider your carbon footprint.
  4. Conscious eating and shopping – organics, local, human rights, fair-trade
  5. Adopt rescue animals
  6. Recycle, Reuse – Try to obtain and pass on as much as we can at thrift shops, free cycle, Craig’s List, friends, etc.
  7. Share your views/listen to others’ views
  8. Listen to music that inspires living positively
  9. Connect with people who share our beliefs/values – interest groups (political, environmental, social, spiritual, human rights, etc.)
  10. Spread light

In truth, I am in the midst of thinking what I need to focus on so that I can make a positive impact in our world.  I am fortunate that I can do a ton, but I do believe it is time to focus a little more heavily in one area of my life.  I will let you know once I decide.

How about you? “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of  difference you want to make.”

With blessings & light,
Chava

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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 19 Elul or 11 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!

~ ~ ~

“Find beauty and gifts in simple moments, but acknowledge the entire picture too.”
Quote by Me

~ ~ ~

All of us have default responses that show how we walk through the world.  As someone who has been been beaten in a multitude of ways both violently and emotionally, I choose to see the world as beautiful and to celebrate life at every given opportunity.  Life is hard, but amazing moments happen with each passing day.

Reality is what it is and I am choosing to be transparent about what we are currently experiencing.  At the same time, please know that many blessings surround my family.  Yes, times are painfully difficult, but drowning is not an option.  My sons and I have chosen to thrive by diving into the water, swimming as best we can, and sometimes treading so that we can stay afloat.  There is no question, we will make it to shore.

Reality first:

  1. On December 16th, my youngest son’s 17th birthday, I was told that my job would go to half-time and that I would lose all benefits unless I could afford COBRA.  I couldn’t, so not only did I lose half of my salary, I lost health insurance and the ability to take care of my nearly adult children or myself.
  2. In June, after I had learned to manage on half-salary by supplementing my income, I lost my half-time position.
  3. June is too late to find a professional position in my field; now I need to wait until next winter if I choose to stay in my field.
  4. I struggle to afford even the most basic needs and sometimes I can’t even afford them.
  5. My Temple (as well as many spiritual communities) did not pay into unemployment insurance, so I have no benefits that are often available to those that have lost their jobs.  (Note: If you are a leader or a member of a spiritual community, be part of helping the community navigate good and ethical decision making.  Unemployment should be a given-not a loop hole.)
  6. I am a single mother who is barely supporting my sons on whatever I make.
  7. My family moved to Tucson and left many of our closest friends for a job that left us stranded.  Jewish professionals do not make enough to easily save the kind of money that would allow us to move back east.

I am sorry that the congregation I worked for is struggling; I am also tremendously sorry that I live in fear of homelessness because of their choices.

Life is hard, really hard. And the good news is that I get to decide how I will walk through this journey.  And during this weekend alone, I found so many awesome gifts:

  1. Aryeh found my dog playing with my thumb drive; I thought some important documents had been lost forever.  Now I have some back-ups to do.  Can anyone help me create a cloud that can contain all my computer documents?  Unfortunately I do have some significant limitiations. :/
  2. Loved when my friends shared with me what was good about their week before Shabbat when I asked; Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with so many folks in our lives.
  3. The boys and I had a simple salad for Shabbat dinner; we loved just being together.
  4. After dinner, Aryeh and I taught Dovi to play backgammon!!! And he actually won one game.
  5. Saturday morning, I visited my 98 year old friend and took her to the DeGrazia Museum in the Sun. While it wasn’t a total success, I did get my friend out for awhile.  AND I can’t wait to go back by myself later this week.
  6. The DeGrazia Museum is a hidden free treasure for all visiting or living in Tucson; go when you can and be sure to leave a donation.
  7. Aryeh and I had an amazing time at our friends house; we swam, ate good food; and laughed a lot!
  8. Had an hour conversation with one of my closest friends in Tucson.  (Wow, Tucson really has given me some close friends.)
  9. Another friend found me a great High Holiday position in NY, but it ended up not making sense to take it.  But when the offer came in, it brought tears to my eyes and made me feel a little more worthy than I have been feeling.

Continuously Reflection and gratitude:

  1. I have had some amazing time to think about my values and what I want to accomplish during the second half of my life.  What do I really want to do? Where do I really want to be? Who do I want in my life? I want a life that includes thoughtful people doing things that jazz their soul; I want to be that person too.
  2. A good friend helped me sustain myself by giving me a job; another one helped me find more work when the first job stopped producing enough hours for me.
  3. There are many friends that keep calling, sending notes, and believing in me.  They support me when I am feeling good, when I am devastated, and when I am just ok.  My most beautiful friends see me as I am, positive (for the most part) and navigating tough times; they support me by being there and letting me know that they are!
  4. Since December, I have been a caregiver to those that are aging, in medical crisis, and/or dying.  Helping each individual and sometimes their families as they navigate some of life’s hardest times has been an amazing experience for me; I believe that I am making people’s lives a little easier when I am their caregiver.
  5. When we really needed help, financial help has shown up on three different occasions since December.  Still every month since December has been terrifying.
  6. AND last week a dear friend offered me her house in Charlottesville, VA; I am seriously thinking about trying to get there.  I am wondering how to afford getting there and/or the storage costs of that transition.
  7. Two friends offered to drive a U-Haul truck cross country so that I wouldn’t have to pay movers.
  8. Countless friends have offered me real solutions so that homelessness wouldn’t happen; one challenge to many of the solutions is that we have two dogs that for now we are choosing to keep.  They have already been homeless in their lives; I don’t want them to experience that fate again.  (Besides when our newest pup became a problem this summer, we couldn’t find a home for her. Sigh.)
  9. A fabulous congregation in Boulder offered me a position that I’d love to take, but it is half-time.  After the holidays, perhaps I can find another half-time position to compliment the first position.  They have a temp Director of Education there for the next couple of months.

What can you do to help?

  1. Visualize we are good and pray for us to find the sustenance that will help us thrive.
  2. Give me a job.  I am good with people in all sorts of settings.
  3. If you hear of a job that you think would be good for my soul. Let me know.  I am looking for either a career position in Jewish Education or Social Action work AND I am also open to doing a job in a great environment that is a 35-40 hour week job that will allow me the time to write and do Social Action when I am not working.
  4. If you are a doctor or dentist living in Tucson and you are willing to be there for our family for lower or no costs, let me know.
  5. Keep your eyes open. . . .I am considering asking for concrete help that will allow us to go to the east coast.
  6. Light a candle and visualize us spreading light and being full of light.

The good news is that I believe all will be ok.  I am patient and hopeful; the right door is emerging as I type :).  Today’s text response to a local friend that had asked me how I am was –“up & down. . . .but mostly navigating with a positive outlook.”  This is how I walk through life.  I believe that blessings surround me and I pray that all of us will remain healthy (medical emergencies are not an option).  I am actively engaged in living positively as we also play the waiting game for a good job/position that will help sustain my family.

May light surround our family and flow through our family now and always; may that light help make the world a better place.

With blessings & light,
Chava

 

 

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I am a human being; I struggle with how to walk in the world and how to live according to my values.  Sometimes I slip, other times I excel at keeping to my values.  And I often struggle to articulate information about the issues that I hold dear.  I seem to become tongue tied instead of being able to give the facts that support my actions.  This is the time that my introverted tendencies become ridiculously obvious.  Sigh.

When it comes to doing Tikun Olam (repairing the world) or living consciously, nothing is a laughing matter.  There is so much holy work to do; none of us can do it all, but each of us can do our part.  Yet when you decide to live consciously by honoring what you know to be true; life can be so much more precious.

This week I was challenged and called a hypocrite (in humor) for eating a york peppermint patty.   I didn’t buy it, but I picked it up, and ate one.  Being called a hypocrite for eating something which probably utilized cocoa beans that were harvested by slave labor is wrong.  Unquestionably wrong.  The person was being playful, but to me it was/is a value that I hold dear.  How could I let myself partake in something I know to be wrong?

There are so many values that are guiding principles for how I walk in the world and sometimes I act irresponsible and do things that aren’t really ok for me to do.  If I hold a value dear to my heart than I should be living consciously with that value.  I do not preach to others unless they ask questions about my choices; sometimes I will speak publicly or actively engage in actions that show my values, but mostly I am fairly silent.

As I move into this year, perhaps it is time for me to live more honestly with my values.  I have a choice in how I choose to walk in this world.  Walking gently in the world is a value that parallels my love for family and Judiasm; I don’t want to be a hypocrite with values that I hold dear.  It is time to walk one way.

 

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Part of writing this blog series is for me to remind myself that I need to actively seek happiness.  This exploration will continue through my lifetime;  the goal is to continually create the spiritual space to thrive as I actively engage in life with a smile on my face.  It’s what I do.

Before I go into what I will call Commandment #5 or Seek Peaceful Connections, I want to explore how each of us see beauty.

Below are two photos, the first one taken by my friend Shai Gluskin under the beautiful clouds of Vermont’s wilderness.  The second photo was taken in one of the holiest places I have ever traveled, Jemez Springs, New Mexico.  The terrain of both locations is vastly different and yet both are spiritually holy places.  The question is which physical environment do you find peaceful? Which location is beautiful to you?

Blueberry Hill near Ripton, Vermont
Photo is a contribution from Shai Gluskin

Jemez Spring, New Mexico
Photo taken in January 2009 by Chava


Each of us define relationships to people, to land, to the world differently.  What do you see as healthy and what I see as healthy may be different.  In the fifth commandment, I am exploring what it means to have peaceful connections.  Looking at the two photos above, I am aware that my needs change based on what is going on in my life at any given time.   I am flexible in my needs, but my son Aryeh has yet to find beauty in the ‘fucking desert’ as he jokingly refers to the southwest.  I, however, love being here.

Seek Peaceful Connections

In our personal relationships, we all have people we adore, people we tolerate or just like, and people that challenge us.  I contend that in order to be happy, you really need to surround yourself with those folks that jazz your soul in different ways.

Knowing yourself will help in this journey.  Personally, I love spiritual environments; drumming and chanting, prayer and learning make me happy.  When I take time to write, my soul feels complete joy and thoroughly alive. I am passionate about the environment and Israeli politics.  And watch out once I start talking about voluntary simplicity.  For me, I need to spend time with people that love many of the things I do.

Over the years, I have learned to end connections that don’t fuel me in any way.  While it is sad and hard to do that, it is necessary for my emotional health.  I accept the fact that I do not have enough time in my week to experience what I need and want for myself.  Between my children and work, there is so much to do.  So when I have time, I want to thoroughly enjoy those that surround me or I want to know that what I am doing makes a difference.  Wasting time is not an option.

What is peaceful to you? What do you find comforting? Below is a short list of environments I find to be peaceful:

  • nature
  • quiet coffee houses
  • drum circles
  • walks in the rain
  • chant circles

And I love being with people that prefer the same environments.  I wouldn’t enjoy nightclubs or amusement parks.  I don’t like large gatherings and I wouldn’t like to be around a group of hunters.  So, it is important to have a grasp of what environments are soothing to you and then find others that share what you like.

The biggest challenge in creating peaceful connections is finding the time.  There are so many people that I instantly adore; sometimes I have the time it takes to nurture the connections and sometimes I don’t.  The key is being honest with myself about the time I have to connect.

Peace is the calm feeling that nourishes and inspires me to be the best me I can be.

“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”

~Peace Pilgrim

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