Saturday, July 27, 2013

Because is a Bridge

In meditation today, part of our conversation was on the word "Because."  I've always loved the written word and how through words you can move people to any emotion.  And then today, as we discussed the word, I began to visualize the word as BECAUSE. Big and important.  Today, I had a new  understanding of its importance.

You take action - why?
You want someone to take action - why?


"Because" gives your action purpose, intention, and deeper connection.

I read with my kids because I want them to learn to love reading too.
I told my friend the truth because she was hurting and I knew it would help.
I asked for help because I knew I couldn't do it alone.

Now the true exercise of using this word is to make sure the words following "because" give your listener your sincere intent, clarity and desire and not just a rationalization that masks the truth. Try it.  When thinking about the why of your life, give deeper thought to the word because and the words that follow.

I think BECAUSE could be my new favorite word.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Importance of Welcoming

Inspired by Craig Taubman's "The Art of Welcoming" theme for the month of Elul, it made me think about how we welcome situations into our life.   So much is written about "letting go," "declutter your life" and "say goodbye to (fill in the blank).  And of course, much has also been written about "embrace your life," "seize the moment," and "reach for the stars."

But how can welcoming issues in your life allow you to process, analyze and create better solutions?  A longtime ago, someone gave me the following great advice, "It takes 3 seconds more to press down or push away a feeling than actually feeling it.  Because what is the alternative, we hold it in until we explode which happens to me.  I'm upset about a situation and rather than dealing with it, I'm still upset, so it gets redirected toward somewhere or to someone else.

New solution - welcome these issues as opportunities for growth.  And I mean welcome them.  It is not easy.  Years ago, while going through a painful time, a spiritual leader told me that I would be grateful for this experience.  I said, "No way.  I'll get through it, but I'll never be grateful for it."  He turned out to be right because my life took a pivotal change after that.  It took time for me to be grateful, but over the years I learned to see this moment and subsequent painful times as the moments where spiritual and emotional growth happen.

Welcome the experience.  It will be sad, painful and challenging.
Welcome the help you need to get through the situation.
Welcome the growth that will come from working through this difficult time.
Welcome the time it takes to heal.
And welcome the stronger person you will be when the sad time has passed.

Shabbat Shalom.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meditation - My Spiritual Workout

In our meditation today, our conversation (like it often does) goes in many different directions.  We speak about our experiences as children, parents, friends and colleagues.  This morning, a friend put it perfectly after I said that being kind to ourselves is a muscle that we need to work and she said, "and this is our gym."

The benefits of meditation are real, but my friend was addressing the power of our group and the comfort and support we find in a small conference room made holy once we step through the door.  A conference room to some is a sanctuary to us.

Following our meditation, we use the weekly parsha to interpret and guide our lives.  Even though we have similar conversations week after week, I am always surprised and refreshed by a new interpretation or new connection to our lives.

I have been a part of this group now for 19 months and walking into synagogue every (almost) Saturday has made a huge impact on me.  I'm not sure if it is the beginning or the end of my week, and actually, it doesn't really matter.  What I learn and experience, I bring from one week and take with me into the next week.

I am grateful for this time in my week and my spiritual workout!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pendulum or Dominos

A number of conversations lately have resulted in the following thoughts:

  1. From Good, comes Good
  2. From Bad, Good can come
  3. Bad decisions create more bad decisions
  4. Good for you may be bad for others
So I started to consider my perspective of some of my recent situations.  
  1. From my meditation, I have so many gifts.  I am part of a community, I belong (in the real sense) to a shul, I learn from others and others learn from me.  My children witness this growth and our conversations have become more meaningful.
  2. During a recent confrontation, I was happily surprised when I received an apology and the conversation turned productive and rewarding.
  3. My bad decisions come when I am frustrated, tired and I can't pause to take a breath.  These usually occur with my kids and when we are all in the height of our struggles, we just keep yelling and hopefully I find the strength to walk away.  It is only later that I can see that we are all tired and stressed.  In fact, as always in hindsight, I can pinpoint the 5-6 bad decisions in a day that had led me to being non-productive, angry and frustrated.
  4. I don't mean that "I win, you lose."  By this one, I think that I realized in several situations that solutions that work for me, may or may not work for others and in fact, could have a negative impact on others.  This week, I was in a few conversations where I gave a response that was received well and another with a similar response was given negative feedback.  
My life is a mixed bag and I choose to be positive.  Some days, my life feels like a pendulum swinging back and forth waking up each emotion as it swings.  There is beauty in the pendulum as well as noise. There are days when I think my life is more like dominos and every thing I do is connected - good and bad. I like the idea of the dominos because I am always in awe of the power of connection and how each connection leads to another and another.  

Today, my life is sweet with connections; I am surrounded both personally and professionally with creativity, kindness and generosity.  Shabbat Shalom - may your Shabbat be like the dominos linking us all together in peace, love and prayer.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Extra in the Ordinary

I'm a working mother, always have been and hopefully always will be.  This week, in order to get my daughter ready for camp, I took three days off from work.  Typically, after a four day weekend, I am rushing to get back to my professional world filled with routine and adult conversation.  Today is day five and there is no panic or rush to get back to work.  

I planned to stay home so I can get my daughter ready for her month away at camp.  We didn't do anything special.  In fact it feels more like an extended weekend of errands to (fill in the store's name) to get her last minute camp supplies.  Spending ordinary time with her gave me an opportunity to  finish more than one conversation.  And while it wasn't all roses, our conversations were interesting highlighted by topics of G-d, drug abuse, and even some disagreements about our new favorite music.  She is preparing for her bat-mitzvah and I am amazed at her dedication, knowledge and her creativity. 

As for my son, our time was spent in our moments before and after camp.  Walking him to and from camp gave us some of our own time and allowed his seven year old free thinking mind to just let go.  He shared his love for Legos, Star Wars and one night, asked his father and me to tell him how we met. 

My husband and I even snuck in a date to the movies.  We love to go to the movies and at least for a couple of hours, we hold hands and share a few laughs.

I am grateful for my life.  It is ordinary, boring and at the same time, I find moments of excitement, joy, deep love, and sparks of great connection with those I love.

Tomorrow, I will happily return to my office knowing that I just had one of the best vacations.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making the Day Count - Inspired By My Daughter

This is the first in a series about how my daughter and our family are experiencing this special occasion. 

As I prepare for my daughter's bat mitzvah, I am trying to stay focused on the beauty and the meaning of the day.  So far, so good.  Some days it is too hard to remove the financial anxiety all together, so I try to focus on what this day will mean for my daughter, my husband and me and all of our guests.

How do you mark a day so that you, your child, your family and friends will find it memorable?  Like most kids, our daughter wants to have fun with her friends.  My husband and I want our friends to have fun.  So we knock out the easy stuff first - she can have a dance party and we can begin the evening party with havdalah and maybe later even get to play some music we like.

Next, we share ideas about how this day is not the end of so much studying and learning, but instead the beginning of a deeper and more meaningful way of life.  I was clear from the beginning that I didn't just want my daughter to be preparing for this day all alone, I wanted us all as a family to be learning and preparing as well.  This is an incredible opportunity for all of us to show her how to integrate our Jewish values into her daily life and for my husband and I to reaffirm and continue our exploration of a deeper spirituality.

We still have so much to do and I worry that I will get lost in the financial anxiety.  As checks get written, I will need to remind myself to stay balanced in logistics and spirituality.

I promise to stay in learning and to stay focused on the big picture.  I have meditated with visual images of a beautiful and meaningful day for my daughter, our family and friends.  I still have work to make that happen, but my husband and I are inspired by our daughter's creativity and commitment to marking this special day.

Stay tuned for more bat mitzvah updates...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lessons from Meditation - Actions and Words Go Hand in Hand

In meditation today, my friend led a beautiful meditation and reminded us that as we think about the past and the future, try to be right here, right now.  (Always a good reminder).  She also asked us to be kind to ourselves and while this seems obvious, it touched so many of us deeply.  Why must we be reminded to be kind to ourselves; Isn't the most common reminder, "Be kind to others?"

Following meditation, we discussed the commentary of the Torah portion, Dvarim.  We shared our thoughts on leadership, retelling stories for learning, legacy and ceremony.  We discussed the humanity of Moses, the journey's end and though participants in the room had read the story year after year, we still shared the sadness about how Moses can't enter the promised land.

One conversation that struck me most was how our experiences form our opinion and perspective, and therefore, as years pass, we retell our stories with a bit more distance, forgiveness and even some romance.  

Think about a story that you tell to someone you want to know your essence.  Do you tell it the same way every time?  Do you remember new details when you tell it again?  Do you leave out details to make sure this listener hears what you want?

At one point during the discussion, my hands came together and linked.  It occurred to me that I was physically mirroring my feelings that were evoked - if I could marry my actions (my right hand) and my words (my left hand), then I would be satisfied that I was acting with a compassionate, thoughtful and mindful heart.  It is not always easy as I often hear myself frustrated and yelling more than I would like.

Walking in truth (whether I like it or not) is still more fulfilling and healthy than lying to myself.  This week, I will continue to carry these lessons with me - breathe, hold words and actions together and be kind to myself.

Friday, July 5, 2013

My Jewish Journey

There are a lot of studies and even more discussions about what is the most impactful Jewish experience that keeps one engaged in the Jewish community and nurtures one's desire to have a rich Jewish life (whatever that is).

So here is an quick rundown of my Jewish experiences - good, bad, or just is.

  1. When I was 8, I told my mother that I hated Hebrew school and since girls were not required to have a bat mitzvah, my parents let me pass on this rite of passage.
  2. I tried Jewish camp when I was 12, and it was not great.  I hurt my ankle after the first week and remained on the sidelines for the rest of the time.  I never went back.
  3. My high school was predominantly Jewish and that became how I expressed my Judaism.
  4. In college, I also hung out with mostly Jewish friends - whether they were good or bad for me was never in question.
  5. Following college, I worked in the entertainment industry and realized that I was looking for something deeper.  I took a few classes of Torah study and Hebrew language.  Somewhere I panicked and didn't continue. 
  6. I returned to synagogue regularly when Rabbi Joseph Telushkin became the Rabbi for Synagogue for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles.  I loved learning from him and was sad when he returned to New York.  
  7. I decided to leave the entertainment industry and took a job at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  For many reasons (Jewish and secular), this position fueled my passion for learning in a way that I had been looking for and had not previously experienced in any other professional capacity.
  8. When I got married, the ceremony became the focal point for me and everything else I left up to others.   Following our wedding, my new husband and I participated in two Shabbatons at Brandeis for Newly Married Couples.  We loved it and it ignited a Jewish spark.  We were so moved by the 2nd experience, Perry and I renewed our vows impromptu following the Saturday planned programming.
  9. I begin working at The Jewish Federation and for a while my Jewish profession is also my religious Jewish expression.  I can't separate them.
  10. The birth of my daughter was a very powerful Jewish experience.   Perry and I had a strong urge to give her a baby naming that meant something special.  A variety of circumstances allowed it to take place on her 8th marking for me the non-gender ownership of the 8th day.  
  11. The next important Jewish experience was my adult bat-mitzvah at 42 years old.  It was an incredible experience and like many momentous occasions, the event was a complete blur and I feel like I missed it.   The year-long study with Rabbi Mark Borovitz was what made the experience meaning and rewarding.
  12. Next, Perry begins teaching at Pressman Academy and I become pregnant.  These two experiences deepened our connection to Pressman and Temple Beth Am and I began attending shul more often.
  13. Work again becomes a greater time commitment and allows me to travel to Israel several times.  Each of these trips give me a new perspective on the land and on my own religious views.
  14. Our family begins participating in the Temple Beth Am family Shabbaton several years on a row.  With each of these experiences, I return to Los Angeles with a new desire for learning the prayers and Torah text.
  15. And then I found Meditation Plus with Rabbi Ruth Sohn at Temple Beth Am ( or it found me) and it has been the most impactful Jewish experience I have had in my adult life.  I attend every Shabbat and have for the past 18 months.  This experience alone has made a huge impact on my life. I believe this weekly experience excites and engages me a new way that sparks the desire for new challenges.  With Meditation Plus, I even grew to facilitate some discussions.  
  16. I just became part of the Sisterhood at Temple Beth Am.  After only one meeting, I have found a place with great women who want to learn like me.  
  17. I become the Co-President of the Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California.  Accepting this position makes it clear to me that this is part of my Jewish path.  Working to advocate for all Jewish Communal Professionals is coming from my Jewish soul.
  18. My daughter's bat-mitzvah is coming up and this experience is already making an impact on our family.  I am committed to making sure the bat-mitzah has meaning for my daughter, my family and Perry and me.  This is truly a family and friends project. 
Seeing it all written like this makes me realize that while I had felt a loss at not having some of these Jewish experiences as child, my adult life is rich with wonderful Jewish experiences.  And best of all, today I belong to a community that is nurturing, loving and all striving to be productive and healing members of our community.  I am truly blessed.

Shabbat Shalom...