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What Good Cause Will You Join In Today?

Day 32 – Netzach of Hod: Endurance in Humility

Examine the strength and endurance of your humility. Does my humility withstand challenges? Am I firm in my positions or do I waffle in the name of humility? Humility and modesty should not cause one to feel weak and insecure. Netzach of Hod underscores the fact that true humility does not make you into a “doormat” for others to step on; on the contrary, humility gives you enduring strength. Is my humility perceived as  weakness? Does that cause others to take advantage of me?

Exercise for the day: Demonstrate the strength of your humility by initiating or actively participating in a good cause.

Excerpt from The Spiritual Guide to Counting the Omer, by Simon Jacobson. ©Copyright The Meaningful Life Center, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Words I Can’t Play

wordI play Words With Friends (on FB) pretty much every day. It is one of those things that relaxes me, calms me down if I’m agitated, and it helps me focus and think. I don’t care if I win or lose: it’s just that something that I enjoy, and I need to do things that I like. There have been days/times where I just can’t face doing much of anything, and when you are in those types of moods you really do need to do something. Thankfully, those types of moods are passing.

In playing a few games this morning, I made an observation: I will not play the word death or any variation of the word.  I know I’ve done that before, but this time it happened in two different game boards, one right after the other. I made other words, skirting the letter D like the plague. It’s solely an observation, yet it makes me realize that I still have a ways to go in healing, in bereavement.

There is no time limit, nor is there any level I should be at. I just find that I can be stopped by writing a word out in a game, and it causes me to wonder why. As I’m typing this, I can think of one thing: as I wrote above, playing Words W/Friends is something I enjoy. Obviously, I have no joy in the word death, as it relates to my mother & father, my friend Charles, and all too recently the bombings in Boston and Israel. Am I restraining myself to mix in those words to something that gives me pleasure? Probably, that is one answer. It’s all a work in progress.

Anyways…because I needed to divert myself, I looked at a FB group I belong to, and a title I read felt apropos for today: I read the blog To Gyre and Gambol by Thom Brown entitled Say Yes To Life. I encourage you to read it, as Thom re-posted a very poignant speech that was made after 9/11. It is a good fit for the senselessness of what is going on in the world.

I hope you say yes to life, not just for those you know and love, but for the rest of the world.

In My Life

friendsI wrote about Sam yesterday. There are a number of people in my life who deserve mention, and one reason I don’t list them is because I’m afraid I’d forget someone. During these difficult times, there are those that have stood out in support, care and love. Even the few who I only hear from occasionally: I know their lives are hectic for themselves, with their own joys and stresses, pressure of living, happiness they share.

I’m grateful for what they share with me, when they can. I’m grateful they are in my life.

I also have experienced a relationship with a wonderful woman who has given me more than I thought I’d ever find. I love her, and she gets embarrassed by too much PDA. I’ll leave it at that, and the song:

In My Live, by The Beatles

Songwriters: LENNON, JOHN WINSTON / MCCARTNEY, PAUL JAMES
There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
In my life I love you more

Brothership and The Only Child

pooh-bear-hundred

You can not choose the family you are born into. You CAN choose, or be lucky enough, to be surrounded by people who really do care about you, who become the family you want and need. The friends who are more than just friends. I have been lucky to have a number of people in my life who have stuck by me, supported me, care about me, through all that I’ve gone through, good and bad. Most of them have been alongside me since High School or the first years of College. The few others I’ve met and bonded with along the way. They have been true family, in so many ways, and I’m blessed to know them and be part of their lives as they are in mine.

I’m an only child.

Let me tell you about my brother.

Sam & I became friends on July 5th, 1973. We went to the same High School, had a math class together, and that was that. Through a series of events, we wound up meeting when walking to summer school and started talking. By the time we had gotten to school, I had asked Sam if he wanted to join me at a Planet of the Apes movie marathon at a local theater. He said yes: we met at the movie house, spent over nine hours in a pretty packed movie theater. This began a friendship that has lasted close to 40 years now.

We’ve had our adventures, times we’ve just been plain silly, laughed a lot, a few times we’ve been pissed at each other, but with more times of caring about each other.  He is privy to my thoughts, my hopes and dreams. We’ve remained close, even though he is not close in proximity. I could tell you about our stories: how we drove all night to Massachusetts to find a girl I was mooning over, only to chicken out and drive back home (in the same night); our Sangria & Pretzel “In Concert” evenings; Godspell and his meeting his future wife; double dates; adventures in father-hood; long phone calls, both good and bad; moving escapades; movies and meals and concerts and long, long walks around Westchester & NYC; everything that goes into 40 years of friendship.

Yesterday, out of the blue, he and his wife Barbara did something extremely generous out of the goodness of their hearts. It was unexpected, and  it is greatly appreciated.

Thank you, Sam & Barbara.

This, in no way, is a slight to those others who have been in my life almost as long. I’ve had the honor of having the close friends of Rich, Kim, Norma, Laura (and, sadly, Charles, who is missed) almost as long as Sam. They, and others, have made the journey I’ve been on worthwhile.

Here is to friends, who are your brothers and sisters. I love mine, with all I have to give.

 

Yizkor

Hakurba Synagogue in Jerusalem Israel (end of 20th century)

Habakkuk Synagogue in Jerusalem Israel (end of 20th century)

It’s a weird week, religion-wise. I held a Seder on Monday, the first night of Passover (Pesach). My SO, daughter and son-in-law were there. I did the service with a different translation/edit of the Seder from last year (and from previous years when my mother was alive), and I’m not sure if I liked it (it covered more than last year’s Concise version, but still left much to be desired.) The older version I used to do drives me crazy, as it’s almost a straight translation, and bores me to tears with it repetition and droning quality. Anyways, this year’s Seder is done, and I’ll continue my search for a version that really does suit me, an interpretation that has deeper meaning.

This coming Monday heralds the last day of Passover, and also is one of the four times of the year we are supposed to have a Yizkor memorial service. I will be doing this for my mother, who passed away in October 2012, and for my father, who died in 1999. I am sad to say: I never went to a Yizkor service for him, then. I am doing this, now, in both their names, as well as for my grand parents, uncles, aunts and cousins who are no longer with us.

What makes it a weird week is that it also is running consecutively with Easter week celebrations. I’ve wished many of my friends (and my SO) well during this time, and I will be going to Easter service with my SO. Then, Monday, the Yizkor service. From one to the other…but, for me, it all fits. It’s a complete spiritual journey I’m on. I’m not turning my back on my heritage. I’m opening up to what so many others who surround me have: faith in a higher power. I’m still not sure where I stand in all that, and I think it will be a long ongoing process for me.

I’ll be saying a special Yizkor mediation, one that was sent to me by Rabbi Pam, one that deals with the mixed emotional feelings I have with my parents. I hope that it will give me the cathartic release I’m looking for, and the start to move on.

My friend Rich sent this in an email, from The Rabbi’s Study, Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton, CA:

Dear Chaver (Member),   

On Monday morning, the seventh day of Passover, we will gather to worship at 10:30 and our prayers will include a brief Yizkor service. There are four Yizkor services during the year – on Yom Kippur, Simchat Torah, the 7th day of Pesach and Shavuot. Our celebration will be festive and lighthearted with a lovely luncheon for all who attend, but when we pray during Yizkor our happiness will be of a much different nature…melancholic, thoughtful and reflective. We will acknowledge our loved ones who have died and their presence will be felt.

 One might think that once the body disappears love would vanish too, but love continues after death. Jewish philosophers have taught that what is real is that which lies between two human beings. We may have bodies that exist as separate entities but the essence of life is the in-between – the relationship. Two poles exist but the love that connects them is the true essence of life and that relationship – between two souls – knows no physical limitations. Death is a veil that separates two bodies but love, knowing no boundaries, joins one soul to the other.

Our God is good. Would our loving God allow our cherished bonds to break? Every soul glows forever in relationship.

 On Monday during Yizkor we will recall our loved ones who have entered eternity – our fathers, our mothers, our spouses, our grandparents and cousins, and cherished friends, as well. And we will know that they are with us still, for God has created a pathway between their world and ours…by the memories we cherish and love that never ends.

Monday morning…10:30… Festival service and Yizkor.

L’shalom,

Rabbi David Katz

I wish you and yours a Good Pesach (Passover), a Happy Easter, and for those who celebrate other things, or nothing at all, a good and healthy time to come.

Finding Passover

“Passover has a message for the conscience and the heart of all mankind. For what does it commemorate? It commemorates the deliverance of a people from degrading slavery, from most foul and cruel tyranny. And so, it is Israel’s – nay, God’s protest against unrighteousness, whether individual or national.”
~ Morris Joseph

“Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being”. – Morris Joseph

passover tat

At this Passover season, I wanted to find more meaning for myself in the holiday, as I did during Chanukah. Again, the Seder used to be conducted solely in Hebrew (first by my Grandfather when I was very little; then, in our home, by my father) and held little to no meaning for me. It was done, and we had to wait for dinner to be served. The meal itself was always anticipated with delight, as it was one of the few times a lot of interesting dishes were made.

But, the ceremony itself? The meaning behind all the words? It was a chore to sit through as a kid and even as an adult.

Then, with my father’s passing, the task of running the Seder fell to me. Since I barely speak any Hebrew, I do it primarily in English, with Hebrew phonetics for the prayers and certain passages. I still remember the songs, and the lilt, the cadence, of the readings, and do my best, at times, to emulate what I do remember.

We used the same Haggadah for years, and the literal translation of the Hebrew text was ponderous. Last year my mother was unable to be with us (she had had an operation and was in a rehab center) and this year she is gone. I have tried two different texts both years, searching for a translation/interpretation, that would bring the spirit of the Seder to life. Both texts offer sections that illuminate, but neither is “just right” yet, in my opinion.

In looking at Passover quotes, I found the two above from a 19th Century Rabbi, Morris Joseph. Those two quotes have helped me, a lot, already. There are many ways that liberty of the individual is still confounded; it is not an ancient concept, the thousands of years ago story that is told during the Seder. Yesterday on Facebook, so many people rallied around issues of equality. It stirred up things on the boards, from both sides of the issue. It also spills over into those around the world who have no freedom, whether it is sex trafficking, child soldiers, fear of reprisals from “gangs” or power groups, or even a people not being allowed their own land: yes, I do believe that Palestinians should be allowed to live in peace, as I do believe Israelis deserve it too.

I’m trying to find my own inner peace  (read HERE for my friend, Lisa Kramer’s, take on Inner Harmony) and I’m trying to understand what I embrace on a deeper level. Passover is one thing that I still need to dig deeper into.

The Negativity Loop

You have blessed me with many gifts, God, but I know it is my task to realize them. May I never underestimate my potential; may I never lose hope. May I find the strength to strive for better, the courage to be different, the energy to give all that I have to offer.

Help me, God, to live up to all the goodness that resides within me. Fill me with the humility to learn from others and with the confidence to trust my own instincts.

Thank you, God, for the power to grow. Amen.” ~from Talking to God, by Naomi Levy (c)

Gerard Terborch (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1617-1681) Woman Writing a Letter 1655I found a letter yesterday when going through yet even more papers that my mother saved. She wrote it to me in 1983 when she was very angry with me. It was never given to me: I found it amidst an assortment of bills and receipts, photos and greeting cards. At first, I started to read it. I decided I’d leave it for later, but in flipping through it a word struck me towards the end, and I read the last page. She was writing that the good qualities I had were in no small part to the way she raised me.

It ended with “I love you but I don’t like you.”

That ripped through me, as I’m sure it would anyone else. I flipped through, scanned, saw what she was angry with and did not read anymore after that. The negative feelings of that time period. those words, affected a good part of my day. In trying to deal with it, I talked to a few people. The hurt, thirty years after it was written, was too alive at the moment.

One friend said (and I’m paraphrasing): “you’re not looking at the whole: she said she did love you.” That is something I’ve questioned for so long, simply because so much of my mom was bitter in her later years; it’s hard to remember anything other than the negative side of her that I lived with for so long. Rabbi Pam has remarked, as has the therapist, that I hold onto the personal hurt too much, not anger towards another, but the slight and hold it as “truth” in this present moment. In actuality, those hurts are in the past, and should remain so in their own context.

It’s a negativity loop, and I really want to break that habit.

I can easily excuse away anything that has happened, but that is not helpful either. This goes hand in hand with the question of forgiveness: how to forgive myself for things that now are long gone, and can do little or nothing about them. If I learn from it, that is a positive thing, and that is what I’m trying to do. I am sorry she felt that way, and I wish we had the relationship to talk things out, but, as was her want, she would rarely tell the person she was having an issue with how she really felt. She kept it inside most times, and it ate at her (or, in this case, wrote it out, which was not like her at all: I wonder if she really intended to give it to me and was either talked out of it by someone or thought better of it).

So, looking at it from both sides, she wrote of the positive and the negative that she saw in me. We all have that in us; I guess I am glad that she did find the positive traits in me. I know the circumstances of that time period that angered her so, and I also know that there is nothing I can do, now, but to learn from this again: don’t hold things in and let them eat at you; don’t carry a grudge; find some way to let yourself accept, let go, and move on.

I’m still working on the forgiveness to self part.

Problems in Meditation

Correct-Meditation-Posture-300x200
Why You Can’t Meditate (and what to do about it)

I Can’t Meditate (Yes You Can!)

Difficulty Meditating

One of the tools I’ve been working on over the past months has been mediation. It was brought up first by Rabbi Pam, then with another person in the wellness center. Trying it at home, I’ve had mixed results. I have a few sites that I visit for guided meditation, finding that I need that “other person” to lead me. On my own, I find it is more difficult for me.

Lately, even the guided mindful meditations are not working. My mind keeps reaching out, moving from one thing to another. My place also is not very quiet, with the constant sound of traffic passing by, noises from other apartments, the hiss of the radiator when the steam comes up. Those noises are more easily dealt with. Sirens, not so much.

The three articles I’ve provided links for (above) give some help, in my opinion, to help the novice mediator. I guess part of my “problem” is that I expect to achieve the peace and tranquility right away, every time. I haven’t been focusing on the now, taking each attempt at mediation for what it is at that time. So, frustrated, I’ll let time pass by before trying it again.

That is not the way to gain anything.

So…setting aside the time each day, as I’ve done with the prayers, is what I will do. Not try, do (Master Yoda!).

Something Found

Love2The going through things continues. My friend, Sam, was down yesterday to help me do sorting, cleaning and more tossing away. This time, some boxes of my own things that I haven’t looked through in years. We tossed out three boxes, rearranged a few more things (switching out more of Mom’s stuff for my own), and then…Sam found something I thought was long lost.

A letter from a friend in High School, Jill,  one that I carried in my wallet for years. The ink had bled a bit, there are tears in the paper where it was folded for so long, but except for one word, I was able to read it again after so many years. While I don’t remember why I was so upset then to prompt what she wrote, I do know I said it:

I had a thought of killing myself then. 17, prime teenage years for thoughts of suicide. This is very difficult to write, now.

I’ve done my best not to censor myself here. Rest assured, while at times I have wondered why I am here, why we hurt so much at periods in our lives (and why I’ve felt as horrible as I have the past months), but… I do not want to hurt myself, nor die. I feel I still have a lot to live for, for myself and for those who care about me and love me, and to give of myself to others.

Her letter reached me to my core, and any thoughts I might have had at the time (serious or passing: honestly, I don’t know how deep it was then) were blown out of my system. I re-read the letter this morning, and the message comes through loud and clear. Thank you, Jill, then and now.

Dear Stuie,

I really don’t know just what to say. I feel so shocked by what you told me at the concert.From my point of view, I don’t see why you have any reason to feel insecure. You’re such a beautiful person! I really mean that. you have so much to offer others. You’ve really made me feel good many times, when I was in a lousy mood. You have a talent for making people feel different emotions & especially for making them laugh…and I mean with you, not at you!

Whether or not you accept Christ, your body is still a temple of God. You have no right to destroy it. There is a purpose in your life, just as in everyone’s life. That purpose may not be clear to you now, but nevertheless, it is there. You must live to fulfill that purpose or you may not only hurt yourself, but someone else as well. Especially your friends. And you have many, including me.

If you ever want to talk, or [piece missing}, please come to me. I sincerely consider you my friend and to me that means that I am willing even to die for you. It says in the Bible “No greater love hath any man, than to give his life for his friend (brother).” So, please, if I can ever help, please let me know! Sometimes I’m dense, but do this for me! You are my friend, my brother, and I love you!

Forever, Jill

 

(ps: the picture attached to this: another friend made that wall hanging for me, another item found. Good things to turn up.)

I Don’t Have To Believe Everything I Think

7312619_f496It’s lunchtime, quiet, and I’m left with my thoughts,  trying to distract myself from the things that have been bringing me down this week. When you feel a certain way, it is easy for things to take on a life on their own. It becomes too much to handle, when, in reality, it may just be that very small thing unto itself.

I’m able to use the computer during my downtime to either write or apply for jobs (as long as I’m caught up with whatever has been left for me). On Facebook, a friend there wrote a long message: it felt exactly how I’ve been feeling this week. She gave me her permission to copy it here for you to read, and to remind myself, when I come back and re-read my posts:

“A lot of you, especially those close to me, know that I’ve been suffering from a lot of anxiety lately.  I’ve written about it extensively and anyone who’s felt this way knows how exhausting this is.  To make matters worse, I’m even more anxious today for reasons I can’t discuss here. 

You also know that I’ve had faith issues and constantly doubt God.  Well, this morning one thing is clear.  If there’s anything I should be sure of by now, it is that Life/The Universe/God always speaks to me (to us) and to borrow Rilke’s words, “that life has not forgotten (me), that it holds (me) in its hand; it will not let (me) fall.”  Just as I was beginning to feel unbearably anxious, I turned on the television just to watch the morning news and saw a clip of Dianne Sawyer’s interview with Robin Roberts, to be aired tonight. 

After Robin’s bone marrow transplant and being ill for so long, Dianne asked her how she does it, how she overcomes fear and anxious thoughts.  She said she breathes, left foot forward, right foot forward, breathe….Most of all, she said (and this is a reminder we can’t have too much of), she only thinks of NOW.  Nothing else truly counts but the NOW. Yes, Now is good.  Everyone is alive and well and happy.  This is all that matters.

I hope someone else out there finds calm and peace from this long message.  And I pray I carry this lesson with me every moment.  I will do my best.  Blessings to you!  ♥

In comments to what she wrote above, someone gave her the following mantra that they use:

“I don’t have to believe everything I think.”

I hope you are living in a good and healthy NOW, as are your loved ones, and people that you can think of, and send them good thoughts for NOW as well.

I hope your NOW is full of peace, joy, and love.