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Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

A friend of mine just send me a quote that resonated to the deepest part of my soul.

The only way you can endure your pain is to let it be painful.
~Shunryu Suzuki , Zen monk and teacher
who helped popularize Zen Buddhism 

After over 11 weeks of pain and now healing, I have a new insight into the rhythm of life. The challenge of dealing with excruciating pain gave me the opportunity to reflect on not only myself, but on the larger wold.

Almost nothing about life is simple or easy; sometimes it is simply hard or feels like too much.

While March’s hell took over my ability to function and forced me to ground myself differently than I ever have, the sadness that permeated my being over the ensuing weeks may have been worse in many ways. With too much time on my hands and an inability to focus on writing, reading, loved ones, or work, I went towards darkness. Sometimes it was as if I was in a very long tunnel; the only problem was that I couldn’t see the other end of the tunnel; I couldn’t see the light.

Even with my beautiful sons, sweet phone calls from loved ones, and a couple of visitors, I felt more alone than I may have felt since my early years. My heart and soul ached with deep loneliness and the world’s politics made me feel hopeless. Even as my body healed, I understood that I was grieving deeply. I was grieving from the lost dreams – personally and globally. With each passing day, the daily beatings left me battered and bruised and sometimes even hyperventilating.

What I learned during the darkest moments was that I couldn’t hide from my pain. There was no cocoon big enough to hold me and no one there to hear the depths of my pain. Although my beautiful sister-in-law reached out to me daily, I wasn’t able to be consoled; I also chose to only share about the physical pain. I believed and still believe that the depth of what I was feeling was too much to put on any one person’s shoulders. So instead, I allowed me the time and space to go through it.

The good news is that I have always found light in the darkness and as the sparks have begun to make room for more and more light, I have slowly become more grounded. With each passing day, calmness emerges and light shines a little more brightly; not only my body is healing, but so is my soul.

The single most valuable tool for healing came from giving my pain a voice. As we all know, it is impossible to sweep boulders under a carpet. I’ve tried, but to no avail. So with perseverance, I started naming my fears and addressing my pain by actively allowing myself the room to feel and even to cry before trying to move mountains.

Even as I share a taste of what was weighing me down, know that I am aware that all is intertwined with each other and nothing stands on it’s own even if it may appear that it does. There are many parts of life’s puzzle that impact each of us; I am no different.

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.

All things connect.
~Chief Seattle

“My back hurts!!!!
The physical pain may have been hurled at me the way that bombers explode their targeted locations with precision, but finding the right doctors and medications put me on a healing journey. Surgery probably saved my ability to walk and now physical therapy, yoga, and losing weight will move me to an even better place. My health journey has had horrific moments, but loving practitioners and doctors have made each passing day less painful.

Core Belief Tree June 2017.FinalOnce I started finding ways to navigate the pain, I began to see that my back’s pain was in part due to my need to strengthen my core and better align my soul with my roots (values) while working towards what I really want in my life (the fruits of my labor). I needed and still need to become a healthier and stronger me so that ‘real’ healing can occur on every level. That meant and still means that in order to be healthy I need to better engage with my root values so that my core can thrive. And only through pollination will blossoms sprout fruit. This realization lead me to understand that I had to navigate a lot of moving parts in order to blossom and ultimately see the fruits of my labor. This light bulb moment followed a fabulous online class art class that I took before surgery.

The vision above is what emerged. I have drawn several different versions of this tree and each one brings more clarity.

What the ‘F’ am I going to do? I never have enough money!
As a Jewish Educator and a single mother, money has often been a challenge for me. I have always faced without hesitation and mostly with a positive attitude. It is what it is. Yet. . . .illness, medical bills, and reality got to me during much of my recovery. Still, I tried to seek positive solutions to overwhelming fear.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the following question on Facebook, “How are you becoming fiscally more socially responsible?” The first response came from someone who believed that this question can only be asked of people that have a means. Initially, I I was asking that question because I literally don’t have enough money to thrive, but yet I really do have what I need-mostly. On most months, I can prioritize, but it is really tight. And getting sick did nothing to make it easier.

My tight budget got tight enough to put me over the edge. With an inability to drive, my sons had to start taking Uber (no good transit system here), I had to buy medications and more medications, I had to meet a deductible that was outside of anything I could afford, and I had to pay co-pays for every doctor’s appointment. And when I needed to go to the ER because I was fighting an infection, I opted out of going; I just didn’t have the mandatory $400 for an ER visit. (Fortunately, my decision to wait until morning worked out just fine.) The good news is that I had a credit card or two; the bad news is that I used them. A tax refund paid off most of the debt and this month, I finished paying off the rest except that left me with barely enough to navigate this month.

Even as I write about my realities, I am so grateful that this is simply a ‘first world problem’. I profoundly aware of how fortunate I really am; I am always ok. I am blessed that one of my sons works and gives nearly every penny towards our household. And while things are tight, I always make it and I always have. Mostly. Are things easy? No. Do I waste much money? Sometimes. . .still I am careful. Was I fortunate enough to navigate the hundreds of dollars that illness has thrown in my direction? Yes. In my illness, I figured out how to pay down payments for surgery, medications, other unexpected expenses.

Regardless of the monthly medical expenses, the doctors and hospital still need to be paid, I am making it and even starting to hope I will have a solid savings plan in place by September if not sooner.  I have food on the table, an ability to cook in a sweet little kitchen, a beautiful home with an amazing landlord, a car (with car payments), and a lovely neighborhood. Basically, I really do have most of what I need/want. I have a beautiful life.

Back to my Facebook question, I believe that everyone of us can make socially conscious financial decisions. Are you directly supporting sweatshops or purchasing your clothing through thrift shops and clothing swaps?  Do you buy chocolate bars at dirt cheap prices or limit yourself to a fair-trade chocolate bar every few months? Are you using the dryer or hanging your clothing on a clothesline or drying rack? When you go to grocery stores or any store, do you use paper or plastic? Perhaps you simply bring your own bags; I know I do. While I am far from perfect, I am trying to make socially conscious decisions at every opportunity and if I am really thoughtful, I am also saving money with each decision.

This month, I am fixated on three very real realities, I want to purchase a compost, I need to put off going to a dentist for a little bit longer, and I am sad that I can’t make all the donations that I want to make. There are a lot of beautiful nonprofits doing amazing work. Let me know if you’d like to give to any my favorite organization; I definitely have a bunch I could suggest. Some of my deepest sadness comes from the fact that I am not giving as I would like or doing enough. But I do know that I am doing the best that I can AND the more I learn, the more I try to make responsible and loving decisions not only for our family, but also for the greater world.

Our World Feels Like It is Falling Apart
Mother Earth is crying. Human beings are being delegitimized based on where they live, the color of their skin, their religion, their socio-economic status, their gender, and/or their sexual orientation. Add these realities to the fact that not only the United States government, the Israeli government, as well as so many other governments are filled with ill equipped leaders who are toxic at the least and seemingly fascist at the worst.

And regardless of how bad it is, I am amazed at the angels that are showing up. Whether at rallies, at organizing meetings, at the offices of elected officials, or on the street, I am meeting passionate people who want to make our world a better place. I have even been touched by elected officials who have integrity and are helping guide those that want to do whatever they can.

Healing My Body, My Mind, and My Soul
I took the weeks needed to heal not only my body, but also my mind and my soul. Admitting that the pain felt overwhelming and I felt alone was the only way to move forward. At times crying cleansed me and sometimes it paralyzed me for a moment or more, but in the end I have worked through the deepest depths of loss. I have allowed myself time to grieve and at times I am allowing myself the space to still grieve. In so many ways it feels like I have nine lives or perhaps twenty-nine lives. 🙂

Living is holy work and I am absolutely up for the task. Hineini, Here I am!

With love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS – To remind me of the power of ‘Choosing Life’, I think back to John Denver’s song, I Want To Live. There is so much beautiful work to do! Are you with me?

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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 . . . .]

Namaste – Part 1

I love life – all of life!

2002
In 2002, my heart, my mind, and my soul opened in very profound and unexpected ways. That was the year I moved from Atlanta, Georgia to the Washington, DC area so that I could work at one of the most beautifully conscious synagogues in the country, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda.

Through my work environment, I found people that treasured the earth and all of her inhabitants. Looking back, I am amazed at what a gift that was for me. Nearly every person I met at Adat Shalom valued life and was intrinsically aware of the impact human beings had on the larger universe. Before that time, I thought I was cognizant of my part in the world; working with such thoughtful human beings proved that I had a long way to go.

And then shortly after beginning my work, I took my first yoga class at Willow Street Yoga, a wonderful little studio in Takoma Park, Maryland.  During my years at that studio, I grew comfortable with my body and in the world I lived. Through yoga, I grew to understand that my body was a temple and with that the world around me grew more sacred.

The more I grew as a person, the more connected to everything I became. And to this day, I remain a person that constantly grapples with how to make the healthiest choices within the world I live.

Change didn’t happen overnight; it took time for me to learn my role in caring for myself and tikkun olam (repairing the world). I was quite fortunate to find myself in the most spiritual settings of my life to date. Still today, I am constantly re-visioning how to move forward in the world and to positively guide every environment I live (family, friends, work, etc.).

Namaste

At my first yoga class, I heard the word Namaste, it reminded me that I had a role in the bigger world. Namaste, the spirit in me honors the spirit in you.  While this Sanskrit word is often interpreted in many different ways, I am most comfortable with the interpretation my first yoga teacher gave me. And over time, the word became more and more precious to me as those in my work environment reinforced the teachings.

I always loved life. . . always. Through my time at Adat Shalom and then Willow Street Yoga, I grew to value life even more.

So why am I choosing to share this basic tenet in my life at this time?

I will always see myself as a Work In Progress. So, as I am in the midst of sharing My Journey Towards Wholeness, I wanted to share a few of the ways I use the word in my daily life.

  1. When I see a road kill or an animal die on the road, I say, “Namaste” as my car passes. The spirit in me honors the spirit in you. While you have died, know that I care; your presence in the world mattered.
  2. When a fire engine, ambulance, or police car pass, I say “Namaste.” The spirit in me honors the spirit in you. May you and whoever you are helping feel the positive energy and ultimately be ok!
  3. When I meet friends (new and old), the word Namaste enters my mind.
  4. When I do each and every mitzvah, commandment,t that is part of the Jewish practices I live by, I say “Namaste” in my head. Whether I am caring for a sick person, the family of someone who has died, the land, or one of the many social action interests, I find myself remembering that the spirit in me honors the spirit in all.

Since the world I live in is full of many life forces, my job is to remember and to honor each one. Every day, I have the opportunity to blend the world of my Judaism and the world of my yoga practice together. The work is the holiest work I have ever done with the exception of raising my sons.  I will be forever grateful to the two communities that helped me grow my own spirit so that I can be the person I am.

May I learn to grow in the practice of remembering to honor the spirit of each and every individual and the land I live.

I love life – all of life!

Namaste,
Chava

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Tonight we counted Day 49 of the Omer, which is 7 weeks of the counting. Day 49 is referred to as Malkhut sheh b’Malkhut,  Wholeness within our kingdom.  A beautiful kingdom is one that is blessed with Shekhinah’s presence.  Only when God or godliness dwells where people are, is it possible for a malkhut or ’kingdom’ to exist.

Reflection:  In Hebrew, the word shalom means peace.  If you take the root letters from shalom, you will also have the word shalem which means completeness or wholeness.

The counting of the Omer has been a spiritual journey for me.  I have actively been trying to strengthen my foundation by doing the work to make myself a little more complete, a little more whole.  Only by doing the holy work of taking care of my being, do I have a chance of finding inner peace and creating outer peace too.

While I have chosen not to share the specifics of my journey over the past 7 weeks, I have been directly paralleling the journey of the Israelites from slavery to liberation.  While it takes more than 49 days to become free of the challenges that have troubled or enslaved any of our hearts and minds, the 49 days can still be used to travel towards greater spiritual liberation.

My journey will continue, but I am feeling more centered and complete now than I did 49 days ago.  Navigating inner and outer peace for me and for the world I live can be intense.  While I often smile and laugh, I also never stop thinking.  I struggle with how to navigate so many aspects of life.  Each and every person matters; the world matters.  Child slavery still exists; global warming destroys; natural castrophies exist; senseless people find ways to cause war; gun violence never stops; terrorism happens.  And each and every time I walk out my door I pray that I will return to love my family.  I take NOTHING for granted.

Earlier this week, a friend was having a bad day and accused me of lacking consideration for that was important in the world.  Little did he know that I have to find laughter and moments of joy or I will crumble.  I have to celebrate my journey to health, my yoga class, my ability to hear.  Life matters.  Intensity courses through my veins, but if I don’t breathe deeply sometimes and acknowledge the gifts, I would crumble in the face of the disasters and potential disaster that surround all that is. Courage, strength, and hope matter.

CafePasseNeeds

As we count Day 49 of the Omer is my hope and my prayer that each of us are ready for the end of the journey from slavery to liberation.  May we feel whole in the core of our being; may peace radiate within us and around us.

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Tonight we counted Day 48 of the Omer, which is 6 weeks and six days of the counting. Day 48 is referred to as Yesod sheh b’Malkhut,  Foundation within our kingdom.  A beautiful kingdom is one that is blessed with Shekhinah’s presence.  Only when God or godliness dwells where people are, is it possible for a malkhut or ’kingdom’ to exist.

There is absolutely no alternative for building a foundation or to continuously strengthening a foundation when you have a malkhut or kingdom.  Regardless of where you are your sanctuary needs to have the strongest foundation possible in order to thrive.  Twice this lesson was brought home to me today alone.  Once was when I experienced, quite possibly, my best yoga class ever.  The yoga instructor reinforced time and time again that without a strong foundation, you will hurt your body or any foundation that is part of your life.  The second example came from a list of 102 personal goals that I must have written for myself about 13-15 years ago when I lived in Atlanta.  So many of the goals have evolved to become the foundation that helped me become the person I am today.

Creating a foundation comes only when we live consciously, find balance, and engage in healthy choices.  Most everything we do has the ability to make a difference for good or for bad; making the choice to embrace the right choices is part of developing a strong foundation.  Living with the sensitivity that godliness matters can have a profound impact on life not only for us but for the world we live.

Foundations come with balance.

Foundations come with balance.

May each of us engage in the holy work of life by actively caring for ourselves and the world we live.

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The scariest moment is always just before you start. ~Stephen King

Beginning MAKES the Conditions Perfect!

Creating sacred or spiritual time to care for your soul takes effort.  Each and every day is a gift, yet how often do I take the time to treasure the beauty of that gift.  I yearn for the time yet I rarely take the time I need.  How can I take the time I need without neglecting my children, my work, my many to do lists, etc?

When I refrain from doing things for my soul, I find myself unbalanced in nearly every way.  I become overly focused and frustrated by small things.  I smile less.  I am a little more klutzy than usual because I am not centered.  I also get angry and frustrated more easily than when I am taking care of my soul.

With this in mind, I have decided that I need to consciously do what I am calling Commandment 3.

Take Spiritual Time Each Day means that nourish my soul.  For me there are so many levels and it is time that I create the space to make this happen.  My teacher Rabbi Shefa Gold used to speak about taking time to develop a practice.  When I am truly taking time for myself that means that I do the at least two or three different practices a day.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • chanting
  • writing
  • davening/praying
  • drumming
  • yoga (if I can find the right teacher for me-hint?)
  • early morning walks
  • hiking
  • meditating
  • journaling (drawing and writing together)

The list goes on and on, but these are practices that keep me centered and nourish me at the deepest level.  When I take care of my soul, I am healthier in every way.

The question is how much time do I need to take each day.  In truth, I need significant time, but I have to get over the hump that soul time is neglecting other responsibilities.  I am not sure how to do that, but I will start with taking an hour of soul time each day.  My guess is that that will be broken up in three to four increments throughout the day.   While this commitment feels overwhelming, it also feels necessary for my survival.

May my soul soar as I take the sacred/spiritual time I need to care for it.

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