Saturday, July 19, 2014

Where is Our Hope?

During meditation today, we were guided through a beautiful practice to focus on kindness and compassion for ourselves and others.  It is not easy.   Too often our lives are so busy we are unable to find the few minutes to breathe.  Today was different, more intense than I have felt in weeks.  So much sadness in the world and so many near and far are suffering.  Does it matter who suffers more?

A few words come to mind - useless, powerless, helpless.  So much to fix in the world and as I work every day to live in solution, these days it is hard to find any answers.  How do you deal with sadness on a personal level and on a global level.  Every day there are reports of more terrible news, more frightening and more depressing than the day before.

How do we explain such atrocities to our children?  A plane is blown up in the sky - all innocent victims of war.  What words do I choose to express such horror?  Innocent people die every day.   Soldiers try to protect civilians - sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail.  Where is hope?  Where are the Martin Luther Kings or the Ghandis of our time?  Where are they?  Who are they?  Do they walk among us?  Are they even born yet?  And if they are, as parents and professionals are we nurturing them to be great leaders?

On a recent trip to Berlin, we visited the Wannsee Conference Center where Nazi officials discussed the implementation of Final Solution.  It was one of the most disturbing experiences because it is a reminder of such murderous hate.  I felt the hate as if the memory was alive in the house.  I thought no amount of sage could ever cleanse these walls.  As I walked around, I was nauseous and dizzy.  Someone asked if I was all right.  I looked at him in the eyes, "No, " I said, "Being here is making me sick.  This hate still exists today."  I was scared for my children.  As a Jewish parent, there are still people who hate me for my religion.  And now as I watch the news about Israel and the anti-Israel/anti-Jewish protests around the world, I am sickened by the hate and anguish.

Lately, I have been drawn to comic book hero movies.  I'm sure it is no coincidence that in my feelings of sadness, worry and confusion, I'm finding comfort in superheroes who are super strong, deeply compassionate and saving the world by destroying evil.  The movies give good and evil such clarity.

My intention this week is to walk in the power that we hold for love, compassion, truth and healing. My hope is not in a superhero, but rather in the existence of great leaders in our community, in our nation, and worldwide.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lessons on Meditation - The Gift of Being Together

Over two years ago, I began my journey of meditation when I bravely walked into new group I found through a friend.  The group was at my shul, right in the building that I had prayed, celebrated and mourned.  There it was and by the time I finished the meditation, I knew something was different.  In the past 2 years, I don't think I have missed more than a handful of Shabbat mornings.

Today, I did want to sleep in, but I know better.  It was another extraordinary experience.  Two new guides who both brought great learning and safety to the group.  Our group is typically led by Rabbi Ruth Sohn, but when she is away, we each volunteer to teach and lead the group in a meaningful discussion.

Today, there were tears, some for missing loved ones, some for celebrating new paths and some for the journeys and goals that had been accomplished.

As we discussed the Torah portion, B'midar, we all shared our personal experiences and in two random instances, we took a moment to celebrate of our participants who were celebrating a significant milestone.  Randomness feels like magic.  I didn't see it coming, but the impact of the two moments felt so rich with that tingle, it is what transforms our conference room into holy space.   And I am sure that I saw a twinkle in the eyes of our speakers.

In Chapter 2 of B'midbar, it states, "The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: The Israelits shall camp each with his standard, under the banners of their ancestral house; they shall camp around the Tent of Meeting at a distance."  Our guide shared this midrash, also explained in the Etz Chaim, "A person's identity consists of three elements: the self (the standard), the family (the ancestral banners), and the community (the Tent of Meeting).  Over the past two years, I don't ever remember reading this phrase with such clarity as I did today.  This is what we strive to achieve for ourselves, for our families and for our community.  And in the past few days, I have thought about how to deepen my commitment to myself, to my family and to the community.  My spiritual growth over the past few years has been transformative and continues.

Today is not a new year, nor a Jewish holiday, or even some commercial national holiday, and yet, it is Shabbat and I get to renew my commitments, continue to learn to create my standard (self) and work to build positive relationships with my family and be active in my community to give back and share our life events.

Yesterday, I read this from Restful Reflections, p. 113, Acquisitions, by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky
"With all your getting, get understanding." Proverbs 4:7

...Some things can be acquired only by learning through our experience with living.  And these things are not acquired overnight.  They take time, as we take hold of them little by little.
So the writers of the Book of Proverbs advise us to change our focus.  Stop buying things.  Instead, get understanding.  It's good advice to sleep on. 

Stuff is not the answer to my happiness and growth, it is through understanding that will allow me to know myself, connect with my family and my community.

Sweet dreams,

Friday, May 23, 2014

Blessings of friendship and community

Over the past few months, I have relied on my friends, my family, teachers, counselors, and even some experts to help us through some tricky situations.  I am not alone even though it sometimes feels like it.  I am not alone because I have friends who send me one line emails - "Are you okay?"  I am not alone because when I reach out to ask someone to check in on my kids or my husband, I know it will be done because I am part of a community that responds with an update, "I saw Maddy and she was reading a book, I saw Elliot and he as playing gaga, or I saw Perry today and gave him a birthday hug.

Thank you everyone for loving us and making sure that we know you are there.  I am not alone because I have wonderful friends who help me be a better woman, wife, parent and in return I stand with you too!

Enjoy this post from last year about how my friends and I all help each other navigate the roads of Parentwood.

Shabbat Shalom,


Sunday, April 6, 2014

I'm on the Bridge

While speaking with some friends recently, I shared that I find comfort in visualizing myself walking on a bridge.  Somehow I feel the bridge is a safe place even though it is not the final destination.

Almost two years ago, I wrote about how we walk alone or with others in our journeys or across the bridge.  Today, it has a deeper meaning.  For those moments of suffering and pain, the image of the bridge has helped me.  Thpast couple of months have been transformative for my family.  Strength, friendship, community, great professional help and meditation helped me walk along the bridge.

May 18, 2012 - On The Bridge

Today, it has a deeper meaning.  For those moments of suffering and pain, the image of the bridge has helped me.  The past couple of months have been transformative for my family.  Strength, friendship, community, great professional help and meditation helped me walk along the bridge.

I've heard some good news in the past couple of weeks.  Whether it is for my family or for my friends, I amgrateful.

Wherever you are in your life, enjoy the view from the bridge.

Have a great week,


Friday, March 28, 2014

I'm Starving, but not for Food

Nine months ago I embarked on what I hope is the last attempt to manage my weight.  Feeling like I had come to a place of deep despair, I signed up with Jenny Craig in West Hollywood and over the course of the last few months have lost almost just over 25 lbs.  I have considered writing about it before but I always stopped for a variety of reasons.  Today I decided to write when I used words like "starving," "drink in," and "a thirst" when describing my desire for learning and spiritual meditation.  I realized the power of these words in their new form and that as I said them they did not evoke any need to eat.

Struggling with my weight has always been an issue for me even when I was thin.  Today, even though I am not yet at my goal, I do feel better and am so proud of what I accomplished.

And here is my big "aha" moment:  Over the past 3 weeks, my plate has been full of good, sad, happy,  scary, overly chaotic and way more personalities thrown into the mix than needed.  In all that chaos, my old habits of reaching for the sweet or salty thinking that will help have been broken.  Old habits have been broken - say it loud and proud!  Now when I feel bad, I clean, pick up my book (currently reading "Gone With the Wind) or write a post for my blog.

Now it gives me great joy to say the following:

  • I'm starving for some prayer and learning
  • I can't quench my thirst for reading
  • This book is so great, I'm drinking it all in. 
This is likely be the only post I write about my weight as it is extremely personal, but it has been on my mind and wanted to share my new taste of freedom.  See I used the word taste.  And this one is truly delicious.  A special thanks to Christy at Jenny Craig for her guidance and kindness through this entire process.  My memory of that first meeting at the Jenny Craig office is one filled with great sadness.  I knew that I was sad, but my memory is even shrouded in darkness.  I'm not sure when the dark cloud lifted but through this process, I have been able to let go of the burden that comes with all the worry about weight, food, how much, how little, should I or shouldn't I.  To be free of all this is truly an achievement and I am truly grateful for my new better self.

And I could not have done it without the practice of meditation.  Meditation allowed and forced me to seek the truth and to live in it.  I'm not perfect, but I could not ignore what I am physically and spiritually able to fix.  Slowly, but surely.

Shabbat Shalom, may you find what it is that brings you freedom and if you need help, ask. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scared to Sacred

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be part of a lunch and learn with Reb Mimi Feigelson. I had never met her, had 42 other things to do at work, and yet something pulled me in to the learning.  She was/is an incredible teacher and I am grateful for the experience of learning with her.
The Jewish Federation's The Board of Rabbis monthly Leaders on Leadership program brings a wide variety of Rabbis and some non-Jewish religious leaders to share their thoughts about leadership and professional development.  

She said so many things that struck me and that I felt I needed to hear.  I really felt as though I was in the right place at the right time.  Here are some of the gems.

"Our souls don’t forget what our eyes see."  This beautiful saying gave me a great sense of comfort.  It reminds me of those memories that pop in out of the blue and somehow are connected to the moment I am experiencing.   Or people who you meet years later and are instantly connected by the experience you shared years before.  

"Scared to Sacred." This simple phrase struck me like lightening.  As Reb Feigelson began to describe the essence of the journey and the subtle change of two letter to make a dramatic difference in the meaning of the word, I had a sense of clarity that I had been longing for over since the beginning of the year.  This small phrase gave me an understanding of how my own anxious moments have been transformed into some my most holy and spiritual moments.  This feels right.  This makes sense.  Many experiences take us to the next level.  Big or small, they are often accompanied by fear and anxiety.  With meditation, I have learned to walk through the fear and anxiety and even channel some of that energy to excitement and joy. 

Thank you Reb Mimi Feigelson for such a transformative hour and thank you G-d for putting me in the right place at the right time.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week and that you hear things as you need to and maybe even get struck by lightening (spiritually). 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gifts from the Past

After almost 40 years, my mother sold the house we grew up in so that she can downsize and be closer to our family.  Years ago, my brother, husband and I bought an incredible duplex and we all both live in it today.  My husband, 2 kids and I live upstairs and my brother and sister-in-law live downstairs.  From Tarzana, it could take my mother almost an hour to drive to our house.  Now, it will take only 15 minutes.

In the past month, we all experienced our own level of excitement, anxiety and sadness at the end of this chapter in our lives.  For me, I was excited the moment my mother made the decision to sell her home.  I looked forward to my mother being unburdened from the house and create a new space for her to live.

And then, last week, I had to pick up some boxes from the house, for the first time in long time, I saw the house that I driven up to about 10,000 times.  It looked really pretty.   The bright sunny day let the house beam in its California splendor.   As I pulled into the parking lot, I got sad, unexpectedly.  With a few tears, I loaded my boxes and headed right back to the city.

When I arrived home, I opened the boxes to find a few incredible gifts from my past.  My wedding dress, letters from my now deceased uncle, old artwork from children who are now grown men, and some great pictures that reminded of some joyous moments in my life.

Today, I saw my mother's new apartment.  When she opened the door, she was smiling.  She gave us the grand tour and it looks great.  It is warm and wonderful and my mother has brought a joyous, light energy to the apartment.  I hope that for this next chapter of my mom's life, she finds health, happiness, peace and security in her new home - I already have.