Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Write On!


I need to write again. I’m beginning to reclaim my feelings of safety and calm. This past year has been a journey from the darkness into the light. I am still on the journey, no doubt, but the path is clearer than it’s been. I anticipate increased clarity in the new year, and guidance and joy. It’s been a while since I’ve felt a sense of hope.

A friend of mine recently spoke at a community event about the astrological implications of the present moon in Scorpio. I’m so uninformed about the science of Astrology, and have only recently begun my inquiry into a better understanding. According to her, this astrological phenomenon happens approximately every 3 years. This moon then began it’s cycle for me when I was 59 ½. That’s exactly when my turmoil began!

As I approach my birth month, I am very aware that I am now turning 63! It has been 3 years on this journey of darkness. During these years, I experienced a great deal of loss. My mothers’ passing 2 ½ years ago plummeted me into a state of grief. Simultaneously, I was catapulted into conflict with a family member that threw me into very confusing and challenging directions. My work changed drastically also, moving from a regular, predictable schedule to one that is sporadic and much less available. I definitely began to notice what doesn’t work for me, and, knew that I had to change in order to settle into a place of lightness and peace.

My Yoga practice became critical as the physical expression of Yoga, along with the spirit of meditation and pranyama (breath) gently guided me through my anxiety and depression. I knew I wanted to feel my experience, and… I also wanted to live, love and be productive and helpful. Sharing my practice with others in our yurt supported that.

What did I know, for sure? I know I have the resources to get me through the darkness into the light. Along with my Yoga practice, I outreached to several different people in alternative forms of therapy. I know I have the unconditional and supportive love of my partner. I know that several of my children (who aren’t children anymore) could listen and validate my feelings (within reason). I know I have many very dear and close friends holding my hand through the often, unbearable pain that I was experiencing. No doubt, I am blessed. And, whenever my sadness got almost unbearable, I would call on my ‘circle of love’ to hold hands all around me…without speaking, without touching me….just to be there and send me love. That was my meditation. They were my solid beings. They stayed with me even without being here physically. They helped save me.

According to Vadic teachings the Vishudai chakra, located in the throat, is the 5th chakra. It is the area that guides our true sense of communication and connection with others. Vishudai is our gateway to creativity and personal expression and to spiritual and mental awareness. My intention, then, is to look closely within, find my true self and speak my truth always avoiding pain to anyone along the way! (Ahimsa)

I am realizing that my life is my practice, and Yoga mirrors my life! Everything I do is a pursuit to find divine love for my self, for my friends and family, and for tikkun olam (repairing the universe). If yoga means, in Sanskrit, ‘unity’ then I am Yoga, and the things I do is my practice. Whether it’s cooking, counseling, teaching, playing music, writing blogs, coaching, supporting, guiding, exploring….all these things, and more, support my practice of life.

 
The most important pursuit is to live my life remembering to love with passion and to intentionally treat others with that very love and respect.  And through it all to continue to speak my truth.

And so I continue to “write on”!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Forgiveness?


“Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” (Wikipedia.org)

Yom Kippur has just finished and as it finishes, so does another cycle of the Jewish year. This time last year my world looked so different than it looks now. My two grandchildren, Parker and Samson were adjusting to life, beginning to walk, explore, and speak. Our newly built house was completed and Paul and I moved in! My sibling relationships seemed strong and solid and my children were all talking to one another (and to me). Last year, at this time, I celebrated the first Jewish High Holidays without my mother in this world and I remember sending her prayers as I gathered with my spiritual Jewish community in Toronto.

The “Days of Awe” in Judaism begin with the first evening of Rosh Hashana and culminates ten days later with the solemn and reflective holy day of Yom Kippur. During these days, it is said that God’s gates open up providing us opportunity to reflect upon life and death. We are given time to sit quietly, to introspect and to consider some things we might have done during the past year for which we need to repent. We ask openly and authentically for others’ forgiveness for anything we even might have done to cause distress. In fact there is a prayer that asks forgiveness for unintentional acts of which we might not even be aware.

Today, I have people in my life who have cut off a meaningful relationship with me and I don’t know why. It appears that I’ve done something to hurt them, and I don’t know what it is. I’m sorry for the lack of contact. I’m sorry for the loss of love between us. I’m sorry that as I much as I reach out, nothing comes back. I’m sorry that I can’t let go of those I just love so much. I’m sorry I love them so much even when it hurts. I’m sorry for any hurt I might have caused them. And…if I knew what it was, I could change my behaviours to never let it happen again.

I am not perfect. I have made many mistakes in my life. I try hard to be a good person, and even so, go figure… I still make mistakes. It’s not intentional. I mean no harm. I never did! And yet, sometimes, I tend to beat myself up for my mistakes.

Perfect parenting, for instance, is impossible! Without intention, I have done things that have hurt each one of my children. Scars that fade and never really go away are something we all have. Abandonment issues, perceived neglect, and traumatic events from our childhood create body memories that continue to hurt. Old experiences from childhood trigger negative emotions today that actually come from our formative years. I know, as a parent and stepparent of seven children, that I have been an active player in those occurrences and now, as I age, I cherish the moments when my children share those experiences with me. I want to know! I want to be aware of how what I did or said affected them. And I want to let them know that I am sorry for the hurt I’ve caused them and, ultimately, to thank them for sharing it with me.

If I could give my children just one gift, I think I would choose to give them acceptance…even acceptance of imperfection. I want them to participate fully in life, share deep and meaningful relationships and remain open to constant growth. That requires vulnerability and being open to making mistakes. I would encourage them to try, to assess, to reflect and decide. And to know that, sometimes it is necessary to say “I’m sorry” when you’ve hurt somebody. Ultimately I would hope they would feel grateful for the opportunity for growth instead of feeling trepidation and fearfulness.
 
I find myself lately in a deep state of gratitude. I don’t say “I’m sorry” as much as I used to. Instead I am opening up to the opportunities to recognize how the complications and challenges in my life push me through experiences to a clearer and fuller existence. I welcome these experiences and try to find the possibilities to say “Thank you” instead.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Yermiyahu

We curiously peek through the half opened door on Yanai Street in Jerusalem as we go in search for Yermiyahu, a Tallit maker who has come very highly recommended. An old man sits quietly on a wooden chair inside his shop right beside the door. As we enter, he barely lifts his head.

“Excuse me, sir,” I say in Hebrew. “Are you Yermiyahu?” He nods affirmatively without a word. He does not move.

“Our uncle Sid sent us to see you. He says you are the best Tallit maker in town.” A smile slowly spreads across his face. He cautiously stands from the chair leaning heavily with his two arms on the sides for support. In English, he begins to ask what we’re looking for.

Our granddaughter is becoming Bat Mitzvah in another month. We’re in Jerusalem and we want to bring her a Tallit “miyuchad” (original and special)

Yermiyahu’s guidance is slow. First we pick the fabric for the shawl. Stella wants it simple. We choose a satiny white on white design and feel confident that we can’t really go wrong with the natural, linen fabric. Yermiyahu tells us later, that his cloth is thicker than most. That’s one of the ways that makes it a little unique. Because Stella is tall, we ask for extra length.

Yermiyahu directs us to all his hand woven strips specifically created for the Atarah (collar) of the Tallit as well as for the four corners of the shawl. Stella wanted some pink in her shawl, and made it clear she wanted it gentle. We choose the fabric for the embellishment of the shawl.

We know, from what people have said, that Yermiyahu ties his own tzitzit. They are noticeably handmade, a bit crude perhaps, and unique.

We arrange to have a matching bag for Stella to carry her Tallit and ensure that it always stays safe and protected. The same adornments from the shawl are used.

Over the next few days we spend several hours with Yermiyahu. The Tallit becomes more alive with each moment we talk, share cups of tea, and encourage him to tell his story. As he works, Yermiyahu talks. His voice is soft and unsteady. His eyes tear throughout the storytelling. I’m not sure if it is nostalgic sadness, or, perhaps tears of honey. Perhaps there is a bit of fear that he will soon be gone. Yermiyahu tells us that when he came to Jerusalem, after emigrating from Yemen, he began to make decorations for synagogues in the neighbourhood. Later, as he became more industrious, he created Yemenite dresses. As the dresses became more popular, Yermiyahu shipped them to all parts of the world. His business thrived. He ended up being quite successful.

Now, married for 68 years, he has 6 children and 17 grandchildren. When he speaks about them all, his eyes tear again and his lower lip protrudes as the tears flow without restraint.

I end up loving this man… loving the Tallit and knowing, that we are doing absolutely the right thing. We are purchasing a whole package here, a history…not just a prayer shawl.

I hope and pray that Stella will love it too, and that she will wear it with pride, confidence and determination to make a difference in our world as Jews and as human beings, all of us, everywhere.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Shabbat Looms In Jerusalem

Friday in the Machane Yehuda shuk is unlike any market experience I’ve ever had!

When I was younger and living in Israel, the shuk was completely open to the sky. Now a large part of it is covered, protecting everyone from inclement weather.

With hundreds of stalls lining the narrow pathways, Jerusalemites and tourists alike come here to buy anything they need. Fresh produce, warm baked goods, fish, meat and cheeses, nuts, seeds and spices are all displayed openly for the picking. Wines and liquors, clothing and shoes, housewares, textiles, and Judaica are all in plentiful supply here.


Paul and I had fun buying spices. Zatar mixed with various flavours enticed me. We made lots of little bags to bring home for ourselves and for gifts for friends - mixtures of various spices combined with seeds, nuts and herbs that can be added to rice dishes or pastas. Ready-made seasoning for fish and meat can create the uniqueness of Israeli, or at least Middle Eastern tastes. In the stalls wig-clad women speak to me in Brooklyn accents advising me about recipes using these mixtures, and telling me where I can buy the freshest, most delicious cheeses. “Welcome home” says one woman to me. “Shabbat Shalom.”

The market offers cubbies full of sweets and colourful candies. Bakeries offer warm sticky baked rugalach that beg me to eat them. I do! Fresh vegetables and fruits, newly baked challot and anything else needed for tonight’s Shabbat dinner line the many streets of the city’s biggest outdoor market. As I walk through the narrow passageways I hear people wishing each other “Shabbat Shalom”, a peaceful Sabbath. Where else in the world do you get to hear this?

Not everyone is so welcoming in Jerusalem. There is a familiarity that borders on rudeness. In the market, some merchants barely even lift their heads as they answer questions. It’s a bit like family here. Sometimes we treat each other with too little gratitude and a whole lot of expectation and judgment. I’m not sure why, but I still feel okay. It’s not always nice. But it’s always real, and the familial loyalty makes it bearable.

The sun is beginning to set over the hills of Jerusalem. The shops are closing. The lights are shutting down. There is a quietness settling in the air as the streets empty. The music becomes quieter as the solemnity of Shabbat sheds its presence on the city. A new week approaches and Jerusalem reflects the miracle of the day of rest.

As Shabbat arrives in Jerusalem, even the birds flutter about looking for their nests. The lights dim and the residents are inside their homes preparing for the quiet. Even the flower seller at the bottom of the road finishes for the week and packs his empty pails to go home.

There is no place in the world like Jerusalem on Shabbat. “There is Jerusalem and then there’s the rest of the world,” I’ve heard said. I feel that strongly here as Machane Yehuda closes its doors until tomorrow night’s stars shine. Shabbat Shalom to all. 







Thursday, February 9, 2017

Oh, Oh What a Beautiful City!


After midnight
It’s after midnight and the streets of Jerusalem are alive with music. Our apartment for the next two weeks is right smack in the middle of Jaffa Street. Crossing the city from east to west, Jaffa is one of the oldest and longest streets in Jerusalem. This is the heart of the city, with all its arteries flowing throughout into the various areas, each rich with specific spirit and purpose.

The Light Rail
I revel in the sounds of the city. It bustles constantly with Israeli music stridently blasting from the street and the many shops, businesses and restaurants that line the road. Pedestrians from all over the world connect with the “triple” intersection of Machane Yehude Market, Central Bus Station and King George. The car free passage offers an electric train (Jerusalem Light Rail opened in 2011) for those who don’t want to walk from one end of the street to the other. It’s a far cry from the camels and mules that originally carried us to and from our destinations here.

Music everywhere
Even after midnight, the energy of life permeates the streets and flows into our apartment. Laughter, loud voices, conversations that sound more like yelling matches continue until the early hours of the morning. Sleep is almost impossible for me without earplugs.  We are told that Thursday night at about 9:00 this Jerusalem central comes even more alive with a multitude of musical choices offered in caf├ęs and bars throughout the area. Music, joyousness and a noticeable expression of joie de vive abounds.

"Quiet" time on Jaffe
I am remembering my past as if it was another life. It is sometimes hard to fathom all I have done in 62 years. As I walk the streets of Jerusalem I feel the same excitement as I felt during my years living here (1972-73). The city has changed drastically since then. Architecturally, it is completely unfamiliar with shopping malls, bridges, high-rise buildings, intricate road structures and spectacular bridges making life here seem so ‘grown up’. I love the Jerusalem of old with the abandoned hills, simple stone buildings and the quiet of undemanding life.
"Quiet" time on Jaffe

Today, the city is complicated with the beauty of multi-culturalism. In the streets, only half the time do I hear people speaking in Hebrew. The other half is mostly English with lots of Arabic. Many many people speak Russian and Spanish and French. I am amazed at how many non-Hebrew languages can be heard.

Busy, Busy, Busy!
This afternoon, siesta time in Israel, I take my glass of beer and my quiet mindset out to our merpeset (balcony) for a rest. Nothing stops here on Jaffa Street. There seems no rest, no reprieve from the busyness of the city. Hundreds of people continue to move about, most of them with their cell phones held to their ears while talking loudly, smoking cigarettes and carrying on with the events of their day.


I am loving every minute!!!
This is where we live!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Grieving

Grief is mostly about dealing with loss. When my dad died in 1999 I experienced a tremendous sadness. I suffered for many weeks. I cried a lot then and found so much comfort in my familial and spiritual communities. I think, though, that, at that time I was not ready to really experience grief. Grief is different.

I’m guessing that grief takes many shapes and forms. It happens at all ages and in various ways. The manners with which we experience grief vary depending on who we each are and what we’re ready to embrace and feel.

My mom’s passing occurred just this past year. I am 61 years old now. I felt grief for the first time in my life. And, when I expressed that to my friend and rabbi, she said, “That is not new grief, Amy.” I wasn’t quite sure what she meant at that time. I only knew it was truth. Since then I have made some sense of her comment.

People say that grief subsides with time, and that it  “gets easier.” I am finding that not to be so true. In fact, I’m finding that this is the unique characteristic about grief. Grief is forever. If it’s about loss then it will never ‘go away’. Maybe it will change. Perhaps I’ll learn better how to deal with the losses I’m experiencing. No doubt, however, identifying the losses is necessary before I can ever come to terms with it.

So if grief is about loss, what have I lost?

I will never have a verbal conversation with my mom again, nor will I ever gain the love from my parents that I always crave. My brothers and I may never share sibling play and have fun together. Perhaps I won’t have meaningful authentic conversations with one of my kids. I probably will never win the “Teacher of Year” award. I will never finish a marathon and I probably will never see China or Japan. These are all experiences in my life that I most likely will never have because, quite frankly, I won’t have the time to achieve them. I used to dream about some of these things when I was younger, but now I don’t have the same kind of time anymore. I mourn the loss of my youth!

And… the fact is, I never really had these things in the first place, although they might have been things I’ve wanted for many years! What makes me think I could have them now? And the grief comes, when I know I never will. The loss then, is letting go of the desire and the hope, and for me, with it goes the passion. I’ve lost a lot of my passion!

I suppose, in some ways, over the years, I’ve been preparing myself to “let go, let go, let go”. Well… I think I’m letting go. And the loss of what I never really had in the first place is passing through me painfully.

There just isn’t enough time left for me to do it all. I must, instead, prioritize and do those things that matter the most with those people who love to be with me too. And, just like Winston Churchill says, “When you’re going through hell…keep going!”

I am…



            

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017?


2017 looms in the very near future. Sometimes I can hardly believe it! 2017??? I remember New Year’s Eve as we welcomed in the turning of the century. Both my parents and also Paul’s parents were still around and we, along with many of our kids, gathered together in Florida to celebrate!

I remember that year being quite auspicious. Concerns about “Y2K” and the possibility of throwing off computer programming became a big concern. Our four-digit year was, at that time represented with the last two digits making the year 2000 indistinguishable from the year 1900 (for instance). I remember my first response to this was “So what? Who cares? We’ll just make the necessary adjustments when it occurs!” And, in fact, that’s exactly what happened. Our world didn’t blow up. No body was attacked as a result of the confusion and eventually concerns subsided and our world went back to normal!

So…what’s in store for 2017? I believe in the wonder that is coming to us. Our world is changing drastically. Recent leadership shifts in the United States will have great fallout for us in Canada and throughout the world. We will continue to strive for justice and fairness and peace for all, and be aware when those things occur and when they don’t! I, for one, will persist in keeping my heart’s mind focused on “the light at the end of the tunnel” so even when I’m feeling sad or disappointed or even distraught, I can allow myself to feel that because I know it will end. And…if I don’t ‘see’ the light at the end of the tunnel, I will call on my faith to remind me it is there and if I just let myself experience and feel, even the bad stuff, it will eventually become less present and the light will reappear.

I have strong feelings that 2017 will be awesome. That is my resolution for this year. I wish it for everybody. May it be so…


Shanti, Shanti, Shanti