Monthly Archives: December 2014

Right Foot, Left Foot.

ב”ה     الحمد لله

There’s a pattern I see in the world of spiritual exploration.  There are a lot of books and videos and talks about people who have been through a lot.  Often the story of how they found there way back out of the pit (or dark night) is inspiring, uplifting and encouraging.  We may read their book in the hopes of learning their secret[s] and increasing our joy or our gratitude, our sense of abundance or our connection to The One.

But I don’t find as many people (outside blogs) talking about their struggles right now.

I used to think that if someone struggled with, say, depression, then they clearly had not worked out their issues, or certainly had not achieved some great spiritual height.  If they had done so, then I thought their struggle would be a thing of the past.  Even when I heard that Rabbi Nachman of Breslov wrestled with depression I thought it showed that he wasn’t as great as I had once thought.

But greatness isn’t about the end of struggle.  Greatness is about finding increasing grace around our struggles.  Not being graceful.  Just increasing.  At least, that’s my thought today.  And we can learn something from folks who have been, and continue to be, in the forefront of these difficulties.

Today I am in a place of great struggle.  Difficult, powerful feelings from very old days of trauma seem to be surfacing.  No content.  No “video at 11”, as I like to say.  Just ennervating, debilitating sadness, fear, futility.  To be clear, I should say that this is not to the extent that anyone needs to be concerned for my well-being; there are people suffering from things like this who are overwhelmed and shut down.  Thank G-d I am in a place to be able to weather the storm.

And that’s what I’m doing.  I put one foot in front of the other.  Or I just stand.  Or just sit.  I lay in bed and read Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy (which I highly recommend).  Or I veg out playing silly computer games.

Or I come here to post.

My purpose in doing so is to maintain a certain honesty about the proceedings here.  I’m not always balanced, thoughtful, insightful and mystical.  Some days (thank G-d not so often!) I’m just making do.  Getting by.  Letting the waves of unpleasant experience wash over me.

And I do trust that this is part of a healing process.

I am in a deeply loving relationship, and I believe that to the extent that our intimate relationship is available as a healthy vessel for healing, any (and all) unhealed experiences present themselves for transformation and healing.  As we are ready and as the relationship is ready.

So I honestly take this as a very good commentary on my new marriage (and my new marriage partner, ie my wife!).

And I look forward to working with these feelings within the context of the relationship.

However, at this moment I’m heading back to the mindless bubble game, as futility and nihilism make their presence felt yet again.

But before signing off, let me wish everyone a most lovely Christmas (if you celebrate), a happy new year (if you follow the Gregorian calendar in that way), and a most glorious morning tomorrow morning, as The Master of the Universe brings the sun out to shine down on us once again.

As Scarlet O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Let’s make the most of it that we can.

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We’re All in This Together

ב”ה     الحمد لله

It’s a lovely time of year.  We’re in the middle of Hanukah, the Jewish festival of lights commemorating religious freedom and miracles in olden times.  And of course many folks are experiencing the spirit of Christmas.  And some celebrate Kwanza, or Winter Solstice or what have you.  It feels like the time of year when we all, in our own ways, try to open our hearts to our fellows and celebrate our common humanity.  Which is a lovely thing to do.

It’s a contrast from the rest of the year.  In our everyday mentally we often walk around seeing everyone as distinct and separate.  We may try to see a G-dly light emanating from their soul, but our picture of the world is usually like this:

menorah_top

Everyone doing their their best to shine forth their light.  On a good day, we can give each other the benefit of the doubt and see that we’re all created in the image of G-d.

But for me, the miraculous beauty of this time of year is that we have an opportunity, when so many of us are opening our hearts, of seeing that we’re all in this together.  We all breathe the same air, we live on the same planet, what we do affects each other in ways large and small, seen and unseen.  And we all struggle with the daily choices we have, wherein we try to be the best person we can, we try to make the choices that we’ll look back on later and smile at a moment well lived, well done.  And sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we wish we had a “do over”.  But it’s the same for all of us, here on this earth, and our choices affect each other every day, from whether we hug our children to whether we smile at the passersby; whether we let someone into the lane ahead of us, or whether we visit the sick, aid the poor, comfort the distressed.

Because we’re all connected, we’re all in this together.

The reality of our situation, when we have the eyes of wisdom to see it, is really more like:

menorah

May we find it within our hearts to love our neighbor as our self during this holiday season.

And may G-d bless you, every one.

Walking the Walk

ב”ה     الحمد لله

As I posted previously, I’ve been living here in Oakland and wondering what to do to connect with the larger community here, especially in light of the latest police-related deaths.  And then, in what felt like a gracious gift from On High, I got an email from my stepson’s school, which listed a protest march scheduled for Saturday.  The exquisite way this event fit into my life and schedule is hard to describe, but I’ll try.

  • I don’t always immediately read through the school emails, but this one I did
  • The event was billed as a peaceful demonstration, appropriate for family and kids
  • The organizers were calling for specific action, rather than just expressing anger/outrage
  • The timing was the afternoon on the Sabbath, comfortably after morning services and the kiddush lunch that follows, a time when I’m always free
  • The location was a half hour walk from the synagogue.

This last point was crucial, since on the Sabbath my only mode of transportation is my feet!

And boy did I use them yesterday.  Approximately nine miles, all told.  But it was great to see all walks of life walking together, a spectrum of ages, a range of colors, all united in purpose.

I felt connected, purposeful, and part of something larger than myself.

So it was a nice first step, if you will.

And today, the ache in my legs feels like a well-earned reminder of precious time on this earth well spent.

Now That’s More Like It

الحمد لله‎   ב”ה

So I’m living here in Oakland now.

I’ve been feeling the need to connect and/or be responsive to the people around me.  I see a fair amount of suffering and poverty, as well as the slightly hardened way many people walk when they are surrounded by folks in need.  And I need to do something different.

I have been doing my usual thing: I smile to people as I walk, and I give to folks who are in need, but I feel like I’ve been blessed with a lot and I should share more of it.  Share more of my money, my time, my self.

There have been protests here lately as well, and I haven’t taken the time to find out where and when they are, and if there is some agenda there that I can support.  I was actually traveling on a road trip through Saint Louis back in August when Michael Brown was shot.  I was 25 miles away when it happened.  Feels odd to be so disconnected from the aftermath.

There has, of course, been a lot of emotional response to the event.  So many of us think we know what happened, even though we weren’t there, even though the eyewitness testimony is so all over the map.  Because we tend to see events like this through a pre-determined lens of however we already understand the world to be.

But what I see is that even though I have little idea exactly what happened in Ferguson, I do see communities that are so angry and resentful over years of exclusion and mistreatment that a single incident of this kind can induce riots.  What kind of a country are we living in when a large segment of the population is that bitter?

And there of course the over-reactions to those reactions, and so on.  A lack of any kind of reasonable public discourse, it has seemed to me.

So I was pleasantly surprised to read Chris Martin’s http://chrismartinwrites.com/2014/11/26/open-letter-to-the-parents-of-michael-brown/.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do.  But I do appreciate the thoughtful and feeling response to tragedy.  Nicely done.

Are You Sick of It?

ב”ה

I’ve been sick lately.  Cough, sore throat, hard to sleep at night.  A steady supply of cough drops and hot tea (thanks to my wife!) and water and coughing.  Ugh.  Thank G-d this rarely happens to me.  But when it does, I take notice.  And this one was hanging on, as if to underline the fact that I didn’t get it yet.  By which I mean I was not understanding the message.  Because I understand that everything happens for a reason, and getting sick generally means I’m missing something and am being forced to slow down (I missed two days of work) and focus on my life until I figure it out.

And, with the help of a friend who had a message for me, I think I’ve figured out what I’m supposed to do here.

To set the context, I’ve recently accepted a computer programming position.  It was not my first choice of how to spend my time; I was hoping to change careers and become a full-time author or speaker or live some kind of life of service.  (Well, programming is a kind of service, I suppose.)

But that’s the point, really.  I was spending my time before and after work hours trying to figure out how to change my livelihood to more spiritual pursuits.

The message, as I read it, is to let go of that and settle into my new life here.  Do my work 9-5 (well, 7-3 really!) computer work with all my heart, and, away from the job, focus on my first year of marriage, my family relationships, getting my finances in order again, and things like that.  Daily living.  Exercise, diet, volleyball and bridge.  Walks by the water with my beloved.  You get the idea.

So that means setting aside all the projects I have going:  two phone apps I was gearing up on, getting my novel published, writing a book on spiritual practices, and, yes, trying to do something with this blog.  Worthy endeavors every one, I think, but the message feels clear that now is not the time to focus on them.  To everything, there is a season.

So, Gentle Reader, it’s possible that I may occasionally write a post here.  Something quick, just jotting down some thoughts, perhaps.  But I need to set aside my own expectation of a weekly well-edited profound post.  My time and energy needs to be focused more on the people around me.  (And I hope that includes some meaningful volunteer work, please G-d!)

So thank you for reading, and do feel free to check back in a bit; one never knows, do one?