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Today is Day 20 of My Selfie Challenge. This is my time to look at how I walk in the world and to shake loose from some of the very things that bind my spirit.  And if I am going to be really truthful, it is my hope that as I take each photo, I will learn to be just a little happier with the person that I am. As a seeker, it is my time to find the beauty that is me.

~ ~ ~

I think that this Selfie Challenge was actually a little ridiculous. While I wanted to have fun and celebrate me a bit more. What I craved was to unveil myself on a much deeper level. I am sure I did that only marginally on a couple of the days.

In the end, I realized how much I have hated looking at myself and finding the beauty in me in this way. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I am content with how I look and yet there are absolutely things that I’d like to change. Sigh. I am probably not too unique there.

Day 20Day 20 has proven to me  that I should give up trying to capture my beauty in a selfie. Sure I can do selfies sometimes, but I really don’t want to see my face everyday.

Looking good is important to me, but there is nothing about my face that changes with any regularity. I am too down-to-earth for that. And for the record, I really do prefer wearing black shirts and jeans so that takes away from making each photo different. I tried and I even succeeded some. 🙂

And yet, here is one of the hard truths of this journey. I found some beauty, but I also found a woman that has more work to do and authenticity to live. Finding a selfie I loved each day meant that I took many failures first. I learned to really hate my double-chin and excess weight. And mostly, I learned that it was the writing practice I adored.

Ok. . .so now I know. . . I need to keep writing. This is NOT a newsflash; I have been a writer since first picking up a pen or pencil. I’ve always loved writing!

What I really wanted to do is write about how I am feeling about the world, about some new and painful realizations about myself, about how I struggle to find joy and happiness or exuberance and yet even in my intensity, I really do spend a large part of my life in seeped in contentment.

And I wanted to share my views on guns, my troubled heart, Republicans, Israel, and assholes. I am fairly certain I would shock a few people more than once and not others.

Finally, I have found myself having some really significant ‘Come to Jesus moments.” That must be funny coming from a connected Jewish soul, but it is true.

Life is complicated and full of too many moving parts.

The bottom-line,, I will stick with writing and refrain from ever doing another Selfie Challenge. I will embrace the core of my being: I am a writer who was born to “live out loud”.

Hineini, Here I am!

Sending love, light, hope, and blessings. . . .I think we can all use some.

PS – I have one day left. . . I wonder what will emerge from my fingertips tomorrow.

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December 2016 - looking out into water

(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5777, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-2NA)

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If you are someone who is in my inner circle, at any moment, you might see tears flowing and watch me bounce between being despondent and laughing at the notion that I could feel that way. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. But I process life and my innermost thoughts as the writer that I am. I take the time to weave each letter, each word, and each sentence until I am able to find answers to both questions known and unknown. I am a weaver of words

There are days when I feel silenced by my own inner critic and sometimes the voices of those around me.  Silencing the  critics is nearly impossible. At every given moment, there are so many voices racing through my head.

“You are so limited!”

“You call yourself a writer?”

“Look at yourself. . .”

“Did you really say that?”

My guess is that I am not alone and yet I feel alone. In the inner confines of my mind, there is no one to save me, but myself. It’s time for me to become one with myself and to write with that voice.

Perhaps it is a leap of faith that I need to take; perhaps it is simply that I need to trust myself and the universe too. I’ve been blessed with a net that appears when my heart is racing so quickly that I can’t catch my breath. My beloved village simply shows up and holds me up until I can stand on my own.

Now it is time for me to trust that that same village will hold me tight as I share my soul and reach for the next chapters of my life.

~ ~ ~

Over the last months, I have realized that MAGiC is my absolute favorite word. I believe in the power of magic and my ability to make magic happen. Have you ever noticed how beautiful moments and creations feel magical? Awe is a part of life AND magic will always be a part of awe. Don’t we all want to be surrounded by awe?

Making life work with all of her moving parts takes magic. The more I trust and work with the magic, the more authentic I am. And living authentically may be one of my strongest desires. Yet living authentically and trusting the magic is complicated and it makes me feel so very vulnerable.

 

Some of those voices are so f*cking loud! All of those voices have been spoken at one time or another, some by friends, some by respected teachers, some by loved ones (including myself), and some by strangers.

With these voices challenging me, I have decided that this is the season to plow through these voices and begin to shower the world with my most authentic self.

I know that how I am received is rarely about me, it is about how people choose to interpret my transparency or my spirit. With that in mind, I have already started sharing my evening doodles and over time I hope to share my voice with all of the moving parts that make me who I am:

PASSIONATE
COMPLICATED
INTENSE
SPIRITUAL
CREATIVE
VULNERABLE
EMPOWERED
CONSCIOUS
SENSITIVE
INTUITIVE
PLAYFUL
&
BEAUTIFUL
(inside and out)

Comfort-ZoneThe good news is that as I choose to live more consciously and authentically, the more I am guided by Emile Zola’s  sage advice to “live out loud”.

With all of the voices in my head, this isn’t necessarily easy.  Yet I am doing the work!!! Because if I don’t, I will never thrive as I aspire to. I can’t let my own vulnerability take over my life; I am too good for that!

Breathing deeply, I am learning to trust that when I trust the universe and leave my comfort zone. Only when I do will the magic unfold.

May we all find our own way to trust the universe and the journey that is ingrained in our soul.

Sending love and light,
Chava

 

 

 

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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.)
easel-in-corner
Learning has always caused me a tremendous amount of excitement. Not only do I love to work as a Director of Congregational Learning, I also love to stretch and grow myself in different ways. There is NEVER a time I stop being the seeker that I am.

With this in mind, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (a series of podcasts) when I heard:

At the end of the day, the only thing that’s perfect is a blank sheet of paper
– untouched with nothing on it. And if you’re questing for perfection,
then you will leave that blank paper blank.”
Neil Gaiman (Podcast: Magic Lesson Episode 207) 

As a passionate writer, an amateur artist, a mother, a storyteller, a friend, an educator, and more – I tend to struggle with a strong desire to reach for perfection.  And yet a person who plays so many roles, I know for a fact that I can do little or none of these roles perfectly.

My guess is that if you took time, to read every word that I have written in this blog post, you would find a spelling mistake, a grammar challenge, and a few unclear phrase or two. And if it is a natural skill or your personality, you could probably find something wrong with most everything I do.  Oh well. . .

My holy work is to create, to play, to explore, and to connect with the world around me. And to make sure I do this while finding peace in the mess that I sometimes leave in my wake.  I can’t always say the right thing or use the ‘right’ color/word/whatever. Life is full of imperfections. And many of those realities lead to beauty.  And while I may seek perfection and get frustrated by my many imperfections, the interactions with the world around me are too delicious to stop.

Always learning. . . .

The blank paper or intense silence doesn’t necessarily lead to the sparks that ignite when I take chances to interact with all the moving parts of my environment.  And yet the blank piece of paper or the silence may be exactly what I sometimes need to become grounded and ready grow or learn. Isn’t it all perspective?

As and educator, a mom, and a friend, I believe that most of us thrive using the myriad of tools to tap into learning. When free choice is coupled with the capacity to trust our spirits, it can be rather easy to soar.  This sort of awareness enables us to interact with the many environments that surround us in the  most authentic way possible.

For me and so many others, the innate curiosity  courses through our veins; it has a way of inspiring each of us to explore the world by using each and every one of our senses. That is, if we allow for our spirits to take that leap.

Always learning. . . .

Learning doesn’t have to take place at a desk in order to be called learning. Gaining knowledge takes place when I take the time talk to people, listen to the birds chirping, read an amazing book, or sometimes when I paint on the blank canvas.

All learners and all facilitators of learning know that it takes a certain amount of chutzpah, to stretch ourselves. You have to be willing get a little messy sometimes, take chances, trust your instincts, and yes, sometimes you need to make mistakes.

Hmmmm. . . .I see a metaphor forming here.

None of us succeed without doing “something” with a blank sheet of paper or a blank canvas. Success comes when we push ourselves out of comfort zone, create using all the tools at our disposal, and choose to consciously live life in the ways that feel right for you.

With the High Holy Days being right around the corner, may  we celebrate the opportunities we have had this year and seek new opportunities in the coming year. While perfection would be awesome, sometimes messing up leads to greatness.

Perhaps it is time to paint on that blank canvas at the top of this blog? What do you think?

May we find peace in the journeys we have taken this year and find new ways to stretch this coming year.

Onward with love & light!
Chava

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elizabeth Gilbert rocks my world. She inspires me to look deeply at all that I am and some of what I am not. She makes me laugh and she reminds me that I need to strive to make my true spirit emerge.

Ever since reading Eat Pray Love, I have been transformed and I have continued to transform. Through reading it, I realized that all of us can create experiences that move themselves forward. And when I am really honest with myself, I realize that I am on that list.

About a year ago, maybe more, I became reacquainted with Liz Gilbert when I tripped over her on Facebook.  Each of her posts caused me to reflect as well as yearn to create. My life started to become even brighter because I entertained the possibility that I really could be creative, not only as a writer, but as a visual artist too.

With the book, Big Magic on the horizon, Gilbert teased her followers with her sayings, her teachings, and her podcasts; she personally galvanized me to reach inside myself and nurture my creative soul and even my spiritual being.

To say that I am feeling positively energized and profoundly more whole as I allow myself the space to become who I really am is an understatement. AND YET, it is really hard work. Sometimes it hurts to realize what you need to do and how far away I am from where I want to be, my roots.

Life is a never-ending journey. My job is to listen to the words of Rainer Maria Rilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. 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 answer.”

By openly embracing the possibility of living ‘into the answer’ and by really doing the work I need to do, I can grow and be an even healthier version of me.

This mindset has caused me to go inward a lot over the last year. But sometimes I am surprised by ferocity that comes when I am struck by the right teaching at the right time. As I was writing a blog that I was calling, I Wish, Liz Gilbert posted a beautiful and poignant piece that she call NOT THIS on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/photos/a.356148997800555.79726.227291194019670/1002190543196394/?type=3&theater

My response to this piece was,

I needed to internalize this. . .

I made some very challenging NOT THIS decisions in the last few years. . .it is hard to get up and breathe deeply when facing the fears, and yet. . . .I am exactly where I need to be in this moment EVEN as I have a few more NOT THIS things going on in my life.

Tears are running down my face and I am SO OK!

When I say that Liz’s original post took my breath away, that is not an understatement. Since yesterday, I have not been able to shake the feeling that instead of writing I Wish, I needed to write my own version of NOT THIS!

There are some non-negotiables that are shaping up in my life. My comfort zone is not as comfortable as I’d like. While I am fortunate enough to be in the perfect place for me at this time, I am also realizing that I need to make this place even better.

NOT THIS! has to become more of my motto even as I do the work of becoming more grounded in the person I really want to be.

Rocks from Sedona

Rocks from Sedona

One thing that I love about my life is how doors open exactly when the time is right and messages unveil themselves when I need them most. If Liz Gilbert’s Facebook note was not enough, I also received a gift that caused me to cry even more.

Rocks!!!

Many of my friends know that I love rocks because I often ask those who are traveling to bring me home or mail me a rock that they find on their vacations. Rocks remind me to stay grounded in the beauty of what is as I reach for what will be. So when I opened the mail to find my friend Carol’s gift, it reinforced that I really do need to remain grounded even as if the growing pains sometimes feel overwhelming.

Looking forward to turning more of NOT THIS! into more of YES – THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT!

May we all find the messages we need at the right time! I got this!! Do you?

 

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Sometimes I feel invisible…..my guess is that I am not the only one.
Facebook status line from March 19, 2016

Over the last couple of years, I have blessed to accept my many moving parts. I am intense, driven, conscious, and profoundly contemplative. I rarely stop processing the world around me or how I feel about what I see.  And with this intensity, comes moments when I feel completely invisible.

How can I let people into a world that is constantly navigating my intuitions, my feelings, and my many insights? I realize that the way I walk can be a little daunting. This reality leaves me in my own little world at times. Not everyone can or wants to hear the many voices in my head.

And yet, I am lucky. For the most part, I have found ways to be heard. As a writer and blogger, I create platforms to make myself heard. As an educator, I am able to share what I have gleaned from others and through my own studies. As a mother and a friend, my family and friends are intertwined with my many dances; my thoughts/opinions matter. And as a human being, I reach out to make a difference for good. And yet, there is always a shadow; sometimes I feel the need to refrain from sharing so that I can stop exhausting my confidants and overwhelming others in my life.

Labyrinth Shadow

Simply put, being in my mind can be overwhelming for everyone. With that, comes the need for silence which also leads me to feeling invisible. If I am not sharing my writing, my facebook posts, the way that I navigate in the world. . .will I be missed? Will my friends notice?

Thankfully, there are some precious beloveds that I treasure with every ounce of my being. They have held my spirit when it felt too much and they have opened their arms to hold me when life became too heavy. Most have been with me during life’s most challenging moments-some in person and some metaphorically. Seriously, can you imagine being my confidant? Well let’s put it this way, if I overwhelm myself, do you think that I may overwhelm others? I do. I know I do.

Yesterday, was one of the moments, when I felt alone. Maybe it was as simple as one of my close friends is stepping back. And some others are going through life’s twists and turns. While I know that I am not really invisible for more than a few minutes, there are moments when I am less visible than I need. And that has to be ok. Standing in my power is also a good thing.

Writing about my feeling of invisibility on Facebook struck a chord for so many people. Most shared that they also feel invisible at times. Other friends wanted to comfort me and let me know that they see me. And still others gave me realistic and brazen tools to make certain that I wouldn’t feel unseen.

All of us have moments when we become unglued and we want someone to hold us and to hear what our hearts are navigating. I know that I am not alone. I do know that over time I have learned to self soothe my soul. Being surrounded by loved ones can’t always soften my footsteps. Sometimes I simply have to navigate alone.

Rabbi Leslie Schotz responded to my Facebook status line by reminding me, “It is good you speak up for so many. Empowering visibility.” Suddenly, I understood that not only did I let my friends know that they are not alone in feeling invisible sometimes, but that they could find ways to grow their visibility if that is what they crave. Looks like yesterday’s journey lead me to grasp that we can all choose to become visible or invisible.

By reaching out yesterday, I found myself realizing that even if I felt invisible I wasn’t, not really.

my feet at the museum

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stack

February is my birthday month.

For the last month, I have been trying to capture how I feel about turning 50.  I had some amazing plans to share my thoughts in writing, in photos, in little pictures, and. . . . BUT, the writer and artist did nearly nothing.

EXCEPT that I have been silently experiencing a sense of AWE. I can’t believe how blessed I am. How did I make it to this place in time?

While many see me as overcoming great obstacles, I don’t see my life in the same way. Not really. Instead I see myself as being fully alive and navigating all that is. With each and every step, I am surrounded by angels, loved ones, friends, and family. I am loved on so many levels, by so many people.

I am NEVER alone. NEVER. WOW!!!

With 50 years old coming this Saturday, I have decided to ask for the one gift I truly want. I would love your help in creating a piece of work that I have been calling the ‘DANCE OF EMERGENCE’. For nearly a year, I have been writing messages to myself through words and simple pics; I have also been asking a few close friends to add to what will be my very unique vision board. I owe a few friends the canvas rectangles and I am wondering if any of you would like to help too. If so, I will mail put the canvas rectangles in the mail on Friday morning, the day before my birthday.

Directions for your 3 x 4 inch canvas:

  1. Use any permanent medium you want to decorate the canvas.
  2. No need to worry about borders – you will see what I mean when I put it together.
  3. Email me your home address in Facebook or email.
  4. Return within three days if at all possible.
  5. What do I want on the canvas? a saying, a picture from your heart, a blessing, a word, or . . . .

In the rectangles that I have previously created, I have included:

  • little pictures
  • verses from poems, prayers, songs, and Torah
  • sayings
  • favorite words
  • and so much more. . .

On my birthday, I will take the time to create a larger canvas with a picture from my heart and the words ‘DANCE OF EMERGENCE’.

Let me know if you want to join me as I celebrate my life and my future.

Thank you for being part of my life.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

 

 

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“It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude,
of breathing and stretching one’s arms again.”

~Mark Rothko

I am not sure that I was ever an artist, although that is the way I think of myself.

Today my canvas is any blank journal, my blog, and any word document. My writing makes me an artist with words. But when I was much younger, I loved my opportunities to express myself through the visual arts. Drawing, painting and crafts were part of my daily life.

Now the closest I get to the visual arts is that I doodle in my journal and sometimes on small rectangular canvases that will make up a piece of art work that I am calling the ‘Dance of Emergence’.  It is the gift I am currently making for myself to be unveiled for  my 50th birthday in February.  I have yet to decide if the artwork will be ongoing, but my guess is that it will.

And of course, I have an easel holding two blank canvases waiting for me in my office. Every day I walk into my office and feel like I am neglecting my  forlorn lover. And yet, I feel like I have nothing to give. I wake up with images that I want to paint or illustrate, but I don’t because I fear that I will neglect another piece that is calling to me. Another part of this painting relationship that leads me to no where is that I am afraid of doing it poorly.  What if I am really not the artist I remember?

With the above thoughts racing through my head, I often find it difficult to walk into an art museum or a fabulous gallery.  If I allowed my intense mind the room to be totally present, I would probably simply crumble to the ground in a heap of tears.  If you are wondering why that is, it is simple. As I look at amazing works of art, I feel like I missed something. I never learned about the different artists or artist expressions as I would have liked AND I’ve never done anything with my art.  (Note: I know that blogging is my medium and I definitely share that with the world, but still I haven’t nurtured my other love affair, the one that is waiting for me in the corner of my office.)

The good news for art patrons is that I simply put one foot in front of the other and when I love an exhibit, I allow myself to feel and to get lost in the works of art.

Chava looking at large canvas 3

Photo Courtesy of David J. Cooper

On Thursday, I may have finally been transformed when I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and saw the Rothko Exhibit. As I walked through the exhibit, I realized that I AM an artist; I am unique; I AM ME!

The moment of transformation came when I noticed how Mark Rothko’s paintings evolved over time especially after he suffered and aneurysm in 1968 which caused him to switch to less toxic paints and smaller canvases. This moment helped me realize that I have also evolved from the person I thought I would be to the person I am. While this realization is so simple, it is also so very profound to me.

For me, I can’t help but focus on the beauty of his creations and the hope I have from the little time I had enjoying each piece. I was mesmerized, totally enchanted. I can’t wait to go back in the next week or two.

Following the Rothko exhibit, I went to my new favorite creative space. I went to the Rothko Chapel which is also set in the beautiful Museum District of Houston. This tranquil space is quite possibly the most sacred environment that I have experienced in Houston. (More on that in my next blog. . . )

Mark Rothko’s work warmed my heart and gave me hope. I am not sure how that will impact me in the long run. Perhaps the two canvases sitting on my easel will be given the love that they deserve. Perhaps, my writing will continue to nourish my artistic soul. Anything is possible. The bottom-line is that Mark Rothko’s artistic gifts have ultimately inspired me to become more grounded and breathe more deeply .

I will embrace my new found knowledge; I am an artist. 🙂

 

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