My Travels with the Covid Vaccine and the Prayer that Helped Me

I got my first shot of the Moderna vaccine January 5. As I walked from the vaccine injection booth to the open observation room where I was to sit for 15 minutes to be monitored for a reaction, I felt like I had completed a dangerous journey. I walked through tumultuous waves made of concern, fear, debate, much scientific investigation and even more emotional reckoning and soul searching that had occupied most of my time, awake or asleep for weeks.  

“I need to bench Gomel”, I said to myself.

 ” Blessed are You, Lord our God/Goddess, ruler of the world, who rewards the undeserving with goodness, and who has rewarded me with goodness.”

The Birkat HaGomel prayer is recited after one has come through a dangerous occurrence or situation. In the Talmud: Tractate Brachot 54b, the referred to physical dangers are a hazardous desert or sea crossing, healing from a life-threatening illness, and being freed from jail, I presume in one piece. Of course, there is much discourse as to what makes something dangerous and about adding other situations as well. The prayer has become an integral part of trauma healing where there are many perilous places we must traverse on our journey.

One is also required to recite Gomel in the presence of a minyan and to hear their rejoinder. “May he/she who rewarded you with all goodness reward you with all goodness forever.” Call and response is a form of being witnessed. My minyan was the patients and nurses in the room. This was a treacherous crossing of the roiling sea of my emotions and my alternative health practice beliefs. I went from never even getting a flu vaccine to accepting a vaccine that was raising many red flags of caution. But when I read that COVID-19 can cross the blood brain barrier my tentative yes to the vaccine became a crystal-clear absolute yes. So, I had either just saved my life or put it at risk. I choose to believe the former. 

When the Temple stood, the prayer was accompanied by an offering-Korban Todah-, a Thanksgiving Offering of gratitude for surviving a said danger. But the goats have long bleated their last. Instead, we find more acceptable ways to fulfill this. I figured while I was being monitored and having the snacks provided, I would think of what an offering might be. ‘I got this’, I thought. I perused the post-vaccine buffet and chose a ‘treat’ and a bottle of water. “I got this’, I said to myself again and planned to sit on my Moderna laurels of bravery and munch till I was cleared to leave.

But the moment I sat on the chair at the observation table my I got this bravado melted to tears that I held behind my mask. I thought about all of those who died and those who survived but are still suffering with long term effects. I felt the yearning of the many people who want the vaccine but who will have to wait. I realized that I was one of the lucky ones. I can still stay sequestered and supported if I need. We really don’t know how much any vaccine will assuage this virus, but I wanted to be part of the solution if it would help. I also wanted to take care of myself.

I managed to collect myself. The Ritz crackers, that I allowed myself to eat as a way of comfort, no-grain diet be damned, helped. I opened a packet and offered it as a Korban to a potted plant that was under a sunny window by my seat. I imagined myself at the Temple. The aroma of the incense we will never be able to replicate wrapped itself around me like a tallit. I repeated the affirmation I had been saying all morning. After reciting the prayer I added ‘My whole being, physical, energetic, mental and emotional accepts this vaccine with calm and appreciation.’ I sat down to quell any side effect fears.  

The ubiquitous ‘They’ said there are no dangerous side effects, well, not many, and few people would get them. ‘They’ also said that what side effects there may be are telling you that your immune system is working and being trained. These symptoms are a short lived and welcome response. In other words, maybe you will feel a little something for a day, two at the most. Okay, then. No big deal.

However, it was the biggest deal. It loomed wide around me. It placed its sleek hands on my head and pushed my mind so far into my body that I could see the newly injected serum careen through me. I could feel it laying itself over my bones, flowing into my blood and entering my cells. It had a mission and all I could do was witness its progress. I was powerless to stop it. I was at the mercy of its strength. I had to yield to it. I had agreed to this. I had decided to do this despite my reservations. It was a done deal, and it was a big deal.

But then it dawned on my quivering heart that this vaccine is not made of toxins and unknowns. This vaccine is made of love. The love of the scientists that created it and medical staff that are filling us with it. And I was so grateful that I was on the other side of this ocean.

(For the record I had such debilitating fatigue that I could barely sit at my computer let alone work for over a week. However, the only pain I felt were some disapproving glances from Facebook ‘friends’, but that is another discussion. I will go for my second shot with prayer and munchies at my side.)

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Candles and Covid

I light 2 menorahs each night of Chanukah. One is the traditional House of Hillel (what we were taught in Hebrew School) way that increases the number of candles each night. The other is according to the House of Shammai that decreases the candles each night. I have been doing this for years.

Rabbi Hillel’s practice is “Ma’alin Ba’Kodesh ve’ayn Moridin,”: “One increases in matters of holiness and does not diminish.” From small to large you are creating unity by joining one light to another expanding together. 

Rabbi Shammai goes in the opposite direction. The potential is all there on the first night. We decrease to create a unity of the many who have become one.

The light of Chanukah expands and contracts. Each night we kindle the cadence of its spirit. Candles and oils bring menorahs to fullness of energy whichever direction they go. Their flames dance with our prayers. This is the grace that Chanukah gives us. The light glistens as it swells and reaches toward the infinite, and then contracts to its center. Menorahs working in tandem like this illustrate the spiritual meaning of this holiday for me. Just as consciousness needs to move, light needs to expand and contract in order to thrive and keep in balance. It can’t be day or night all of the time. We need them both. This dynamic is part of all life.

Friends have become accustomed to my taking up more room on the table as we have gone from home to home to celebrate together bringing our menorahs with us. Now they would feel something were amiss if I did not bring them both.

But this Chanukah will be different. I will not be packing up my menorahs every other night. I will not be making copious amounts of latkes. Well, at least I will not have to get into another existential battle between my dieting soul and deep fried sufganiyot. But I will remind myself that we are all in this together.

I will go to Zoom parties from the responsible safety of home. Even though ‘Zooming’ can melt into vaguely forced frivolity that sometimes leaves me feeling there is no gravity to my world; visual and communal connection is vital. It helps me when I am stress-jettisoned into a cavern where I struggle to keep from being splayed against its rocky walls. The jagged reality of where we are scrapes against my heart.

The visceral truth of our factionalized humanity has come forward. It is daring us to reckon with it. We are experiencing our vulnerability on a raveningly huge scale. We are scared and we are raw. But we are also creatures of great capacity for resilience and love. We can move through this with compassion and action, but it must be based on the understanding that our individuality must be moved from our central vision. It is time to see that we are one of the many and to stand side by side as we light each other with the flame of connection.

Chanukah cannot come soon enough for me. I need to wrap it around me like a tallit, like a balm for a season that will challenge us all. Winter has always nurtured me. I have been happy to be cloistered within, by choice, and excited to reach toward the snows that I adore. But this winter is bound to be heavy with dire hardship and pain for many. I find myself calling upon the days to hasten toward the holiday. I need a spiritual path through this time and know my menorahs will illuminate my way.

To be in the presence of fire is to be in the duality of what it means to be alive. Fire warms but it can also burn. Fire transforms and it destroys. It overtakes and it can be controlled. We can be on fire with passion and fired up by rage. Fire creates light to see and creates the dark when it is quelled. I see all of fire’s ways in my lit menorahs. We are creatures of the elements.

From nothingness to somethingness, from expansion to contraction; lighting candles that grow and diminish each night creates an energy flow in both directions. We heal from what the dark has to offer as well as from the light. This is the richest metaphor that I can think of for where we are at this moment. These movements are the breathing of the universe and the breaths that we each take. They are the words we say to ourselves and to each other that can bestow love and understanding or hurt and anger.

Chanukah has days in 2 months that have different spiritual and emotional teachings. Kislev is about support and Tevet is about seeing the truth. Trust that you are supported and nourished while you learn to see your truth and work to reconcile the polarities of life even though there will be times that this seems too hard to bear.

I invite you to sit with your menorahs to let this sacred time nurture you and see the veracity of your soul. Contemplating and directing teachings of the months toward what we want to fix, what we want to accomplish and what we want to diminish and increasing the holy and diminishing the negative is the emotional work we can do.

I will find faith and solace in my menorahs. I will fill them with candles inscribed with hope that we will move through this time with heart and clarity and prayers of mourning those we lost and continue to lose before we are out of this thing.  

We can break through the darkness, heal with radiance and connect with the infinite which holds us all. This is Chanukah. This is Tikkun Olam.

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Sukkot- A Place of Our Own

Sukkot- A Place of Our Own 

Jewish holidays are multi-layered. They recall our history and speak to current times. The cords of ancient ceremony entwine with modern day. Religious practice has been enhanced with a psychological and wider spiritual dimension which moves us from only a communal to a deeply personal encounter. These meaning-making additions create a relevancy to what we experience far from the sands of our lost Temple. This has created a multi-faceted dimension and significance to celebration that we can access and step toward each month.

Tishrei is one of the richest months for this, and Sukkot is also the most physically robust when we can feel our history join with the present. Connecting to the past converges with connecting to our own journey.

We build a sukkah and take our meals, if not live in it. This temporary house recalls what our ancestors did in Temple times when they made their yearly pilgrimage. They would remain there for several days. Many had long journeys, so it only made sense to bring a temporary structure much like today when we camp.

Sukkot is the chance to create the house, spiritual and sometimes otherwise, that you want. It is an energetic blueprint. We have come through Yom Kippur cleansed and ready for what is to come. This is the time to cast your dream. Begin to create. Shake it into actuality with the lulav and etrog ceremony. The Sukkah is the structure and the ceremony of the lulav is the energizing force that animates and brings Sukkot to our lives. Ushputzin-Inviting our ancestors in to our succahs each night is a powerful connection to help us and remain connected to the community and history.

If you do not have an actual outside sukkah it doesn’t matter. You can create this in your heart and mind, you can draw it, you can imbibe your home with the spirit, or for some of us, you can bring your Samhain decorations and decorate with intention. The Jewish new year may be closing but the Samhain veil is just beginning to sway. We still have work to do.

Tishrei Permutation

 ן     

    We begin in Zier Anpin-the sfirots of emotions,  Yetzirah-the world of Formation of the physical, Ruach-the breath of animation. This is the world that forms our emotional landscape

Zier Anpin

We begin with what we are feeling, what we want to shift and where we came from. Our emotional. What state are we in. What is our emotional state after the High Holidays? Have we let go of what we no longer need, have we begun to open to what can be after all of the self-examination and self-inquiry? We begin where we are.

ה

Next is Malchut-the sfirot of our physical world Assiyah—the world of this plane Nefesh-the animal aspect of our soul. This is our grounded, physical world

Malchut

Then we place this in the current moment, the real world. This is not the place of the past or the future. This is the place of our present truth. Feel your feet on the solid ground. This is your outer landscape, the world that we live in together. This is where dreams manifest. Breathe in the verdant power of the present

י   

Then to Chockmah and a glean of Keter-the highest sfirot of knowledge that touches the spirit hole toward the Divine  Atzilut-the highest world of the Divine emanation  Chaya-the highest level of the soul. Here we connect to the big ‘why’, the highest source of knowledge

Chockmah/Keter

And exhale your self-awareness. Let your breath illuminate your path to the highest world of the Source of All, the place and face the cosmic way to knowledge. Feel the abundance of expansion of consciousness.

ה

Finally to Binah-the sfirot of understanding Beriyah-the world of creation Neshama-the soul of the spiritual. This soul comes to us for Shabbat. We call it to us when we light the Shabbat candles. This is the realm of understanding and wisdom in the realm of archetypes.

Binah

And end in the world of understanding. This is what informs what you do moving forward. This is the potency and energy that contains you. Understanding is plush with. Understanding moves propels us. It energizes us. Understanding isn knowledge in action and is informed by compassion and morality. This is wisdom. And wisdom is what we need to walk with.

We begin in the world that forms our emotional landscape

We bring this down to the more grounded world to grow and heal

We connect to the big ‘why, the higher source for deeper support of our souls

We end in the realm of understanding and wisdom in the spiritual realm of archetypes

ל

Lamed is in the middle of the alphabet. It is a pivot and a place where we purview our lives and have a full view of our life landscape. We can see all perspectives, but we must remember to turn and look. We can gain a panoramic understanding. Lamed mean to teach and to learn. We can share our stories and receive other’s stories. We can learn how truly connected we are while also seeing our uniqueness. Lamed is also the first letter of the word ‘Lev’ which means heart.

פ

Peh is the letter that created Venus. It also has to do with speech and the freedom it can offer and the freedom it can take if used unwisely and without compassion and discernment. Speak your love with generosity and speak your dissent with tempered thought. Take your space.

The fixing for the month is Coition. This is about merging and joining. This month we merge with the Source of All and with ourselves, others and Nature.

If you shake your lulav and hold your etrog with this in mind and heart,

you will truly shift your world.

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A Tale for Today

When gratitude is the most difficult to find, it is the time we need it the most. Today feels bleak to many, hard and scary. Reaching toward being thankful can seem like a monumental task for which we need the nurturing presence of grace.

The Tent of Gratitude

A Rabbi and Student were on a journey. They lived in the days when sandals to the sand, and eyes to the rocky girth of terrain was how one traveled.

“Where are we going?” asked the Student.

“We will know when we arrive”, answered the Rabbi.

They walked far into many days and slept far into many nights. The Rabbi joyously prayed with arms stretched up to the sky, but the student prayed with eyes hardened to the difficult path.

At last the Rabbi exclaimed in jubilant tones, “We are here! We have found it!”

“Finally,” moaned the Student as quietly as possible. “This trip has been misery.” Of course, the Rabbi heard the Student, but said nothing.

And so they came to a tent that was as round as the moon. Its frame was made of gold and silver and inscribed with prayers written of inlaid wood and gems. Translucent fabrics of rich colors and textures beyond any artistry either of them had ever seen hung from the posts. Though the sun was high, there seemed a perpetual twilight within. It enclosed them like hands offering welcome and comfort.

“Rabbi, what place is this?”

“This tent is made of all of the holy arks that ever were and ever will be. It holds every prayer, joy and sadness, hope and love that ever was and ever will be. It is where true healing can begin.”

And then in the fleeting beat of an angel’s wing, the scent of holiness that the Student had only surmised in dreams filled the air.

The Student’s heart expanded with awe, which turned to deep peace, and then faced what the student fought with the most. The Student, at last, felt a connection to the wholeness of life and happiness for being alive.

The Rabbi had deep thankfulness for the Student’s long sought for awakening.

The Student felt genuine gratefulness for the first time.

Tears flowed for them both.

The Rabbi knew that gratitude, hakarat ha tov-the recognition and return to goodness– was the last lesson the Student needed.

“Now,” offered the Rabbi,” you understand why this place does not need light. It only asks that those who visit become like the moon and reflect forward its teaching from this source of sacredness of connection and gratitude.

And so with that, the Student and the Rabbi truly prayed together for the first time. 

We are in the holy hands of the Jewish New Year-The High Holy Days. We look back at the year coming to its end, and we look toward the year about to begin. We do teshuva, known to most as ‘repentance’, to atone for our short fallings. But teshuva really means ‘to return’. We are invited to return to the welcoming love that the Divine, Nature, all the Beloveds in our lives(that means all of us which now may seem a daunting task), and Ourselves (another difficult place for many to be) that we may have turned away from and created a disconnected space in our spirits.

So ‘tshuvah’ means to return to being connected so we feel whole again. When we ‘return’, we ‘connect’, or rather we ‘re-connect’ to what we have been separated from.

Gratitude is a path we can take on our way to teshuvah. The Hebrew term for it is ‘hakarat ha tov’ which means, literally, ‘recognizing the good.’

When we do teshuvah with thankfulness, when we come back to our source as pure souls, as with a lover, the Great Compassion of Gratitude loves and cleanses us.  This place we return to is the source of the connection that we seek to rekindle for the new year.

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Entering the Space Between Us

V.Frankl

We would be fools not be afraid. This is ripping every emotional, social, and economic system to its shredding point. But we do not have to lose ourselves to this modern fall from what could be our redemptive amends for all that we have wrought. We can do this. You got this. I got this.

Awakening this morning, I felt the need to reread Viktor Frankl’s ‘Mans Search for Meaning’. Through the years its wisdom has helped pull me from whatever nonsense I have gotten myself into.

Feeling that we are prisoners of this virus, I went to my bookshelf. We are at the mercy of this creature, politicians, and those of the masses who put us all at risk because they do not take this seriously.

But then again, are we really captives? Frankl came through the concentration camps more emotionally intact than many because he encased his suffering with his connection to life, soul, nature, and spirit. This is a lesson for us to heed. His instinct and natural leaning toward relationship to others, faith in something bigger than himself, an astounding will to be, and his cunning capacity to be present amidst the constancy of terror, enabled him to maneuver through those years.

We are not free to walk about. We are not free to feel the human touch of community that is so essential for wellbeing, especially for those who live alone. Worries about food availability, work, financial stability, loved ones, and the world at large is a mist of burden that surrounds us. Sometimes it is a light spray of concern, other times it is a suffocating haze of fear, and at its worst, a drenching downpour in its voracity of collective trauma.

Of being a prisoner, Frankl says that “…the last of human freedoms” is the ability to “choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” He urges us to find our way to this through many illustrations of his own experience. Choose well, choose whole-heartedly. Live through this time soulfully. We may be confined, but we are not without some self-determination.

And then Frankl offers us this: “In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen.” If you don’t resonate with ‘spiritual’, replace it with the belief that your inner depth of self, mind, and heart is what will save you.

Taking signs from the world outside of the awareness of pain and torture, Frankl sees the movement of a bird that is so brilliantly timed to his ‘communing’ with his beloved wife, who for all he knew was already dead, he writes, “Then, at that very moment, a bird flew down silently and perched just in front of me, on the heap of soil which I had dug up from the ditch, and looked steadily at me.”

Frankl grasps there is a future beyond the hell he is in. There is the wider expanse of the world, nature, and the will to be. All in time, Frankl knows this hell will pass.

We have a unique relationship to time. Because we are conscious of it we can reach time in all directions.  We ponder it. We celebrate it. We mourn it. And in desperate moments we call to it. But its beat is neutral to us.

Come toward me time, you voracious one. You with eyes that sear the rains to steam, push the winds to scream and whisper the birds to lofty migration. I hold one till its feathers leave their imprint like a fossil. My palm holds their story. My hands become an artifact to unearth.

Time, you do not tell me anything, but show me through my acts of reckoning. That is your answer. Do you judge, or is that a human convention? I breathe you like the air I cannot see. I hold and release you inside my intention to cleanse and renew. It is I who must come toward you.

Time does not heal all wounds. Time allows us the distance we need for the sting of pain, the immobility of fear, the howling of our hearts in the darkness of agony. But remember that time also shares the wide stroke of the infinite that shows us its beauty.

We are the healers. We can clasp pain to us, or we can render it a tempered breath that laments into grief and then sighs into a place of quiet but for the trill of our heartbeat. We can halt the blood that our pain has spilled. It does not have to have a continual voice. Offer it to time that in turn will offer us wisdom.

I see the banners of love and prayer and the cannons of a fierce battle. Going between the two, I am losing patience with both camps. We must find a meeting place where our shared humanity creates connectedness and change.

Again, we let Frankl teach us. “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Today that space is the stillness of staying in place. Today it is the tarry of our fingers on our keyboards. Today it is a pause between words of retort. We must reflect before we react.

Fearful, even terrified of what is coming and how it will leave us, I face it so it doesn’t pummel me first. I walk toward it barefoot. The ground is strewn with spongy balls of mud made from the tears for those we have already lost. Each footstep I take is a prayer for their past and our future.

And so here we are. In this churning whirlpool of tumult, we are doing reluctant pirouettes in spinning waters where we will either drown or find a grace that will sustain us. We have a choice, not about if we feel fear, but how we live with it. How will we embody it? Are we going to accept its truth and invite it in? Yes. Give it a place at our table where we will feed it with compassionate words and wise actions.

 

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Facing the Waterfall – Tips for Coping

Waterfall

For the past 10 minutes, I have been rearranging my desk drawers. Do my pens need to be where my paperclips were? Nope. I did this because I find that my ability to concentrate on ‘brainy’ tasks, such as work that I do from home these days, has taken a hit. How about you?

 

Welcome to the ‘New Normal’. Brought to you by Covid-19 et al.

 

Even if we do not physically have this virus, we are all carrying a viral load that we cannot unload.

 

We have been thrown off-center…together. We are coping with similar concerns…together.

 

Everyone I help has voiced concern about the changes they notice in themselves. Why are they less able to keep on task when self-discipline has been a strength? Why do their bodies feel like it is set on low vibrate all the time? Why are they fatigued? Why does it feel like they are walking through molasses? This is abnormal!  What is wrong with me? This is my reply.

 

Nothing. Nothing is ‘wrong’ with you, except that the changes in the world are cascading on us with the force of a waterfall weeping in distress so that we feel drenched. 

 

Your new state of mind may be disconcerting and even scary, but you are still you and your capacities are still within you. They have just been derailed for a bit because today: 

 

Abnormal is the New Normal 

Here are tips for coping: 

 

Be compassionate with yourself: What would you say to a friend in need of consolation? You would probably tell them that anybody would have trouble being at the top of their game when there are so many difficulties in our lives. How can you expect not to be influenced by this? We all lose our footing at times like these, so anything you can do is perfect. Say this to yourself! 

 

Relax your expectations: Concentration is often the first thing to get rattled when we are under threat, and this is just that. We easily get distracted. This is anxiety talking. Break down tasks into steps. If you have a work project or paperwork to process, break it up into smaller pieces, then stretch, or look at something amusing. Laughter is medicine. 

 

Speaking of laughter: Make space for humor and let yourself laugh, or at least smile. There are many short funny recordings to watch online when you need quick relief from overwhelm. Curl up with a humorous book or movie or share jokes with a friend on the phone or media. Laughter brings us relief and pleasure. It also brings oxygen into our blood which keeps us healthy.

 

Limit how much time you engage with difficult news and Facebook dissension: Yes, we want to be informed, but we don’t need to get battered by it. When we get caught in a loop of fear, frustration, and anger, we become reactive without realizing it. We are traumatized and reactivity is a hallmark of it. It is hard to step away when venting feels relieving. But we don’t want to embed these feelings in our bodies.

 

Keep yourself on a schedule: Get up and go to sleep around the same time each day. This will help your brain balance and your body will get used to being consistent. We will all have nights when we just can’t or just don’t want to go to sleep. Perhaps staying up late and reading past your ‘bedtime’ may be a comfort for some, for others, it works out some excess energy, so do it judiciously.  

 

For now: While I do not think it is possible to be unaffected by the physical, emotional, financial, political and spiritual ravaging that is unfolding before us: I firmly believe that we have everything it takes to thrive. At our core, we are glorious and resilient beings. We will learn. We will grow. We will shine.

 

 

 

 

 

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What is Distant Healing?
Sometimes getting to a healing resource is not within our capacity. Whether you are not located near a physical place, or you are housebound due to physical or emotional issues, healing can still happen through distant healing sessions even though we are in different locations.

Distant healing is a transcendent presence.
It works through non-local energetics of vibration and frequency.


We are more than our physical bodies that are tethered to a certain location and time. We have additional bodies that extend outward. These can be felt and even seen through different means, not just the eyes or touch. Science supports this and has illustrated that there is a web or matrix between all of our bodies. The most widely known of these bodies is the chakra system. So, we are more than what we see with our physical eyes. This is where we begin to understand how distant healing works.

Quantum physics explains that what makes distant healings possible are the entangled particles that remain connected so that actions performed on one affect the other, even when separated by great distances.

This truth so freaked out Albert Einstein he called it “spooky action at a distance.”

(if he only knew-te he)

Believing that we are separate is an illusion. Time and space that create division is an illusion, although it is a useful illusion for sure. Without some of this, how would we get to work on time, not to mention a romantic date? And our GPS and maps would be moot if we only experienced our world as an amorphous lake of wholeness.

Tests performed on healers when they were working on a subject in person yielded electrical readings that were palpable. But when healers were tested in the same way as they worked distantly, there were no electrical readings. This led researchers to see that distant healing is more quantum-based. Now, one is not better than the other, they just operate differently. One is not stronger than the other. They just have different energetic structures.

I invite you to experience healing from afar to bring you nearer to your health. Some clients alternate between distant and in-person healings also. Please contact me to set a time we can work together.













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The Hebrew Month of Av

Permutation for Av

 

The Month of Av

The summer is at its most high. The sun sits strong and holds court with our patience and ability to go about our days when the earth beneath us sends its heat toward us. The High Holidays are still a way off and the last spate of communal spiritual time feels distant. For some, this time feels isolating and empty, hard and challenging. This is the month of Av.

Av is about experiencing our hearts in the most present and animated capacity. The most difficult month of the year, Av is about keeping our emotional and spiritual balance as we move between the extremes of sadness and joy, mourning and celebration. Ultimately, it is about understanding that the real temple is inside of us. We take pause in the heat of summer to remember history; our personal and collective.

And this Av also has its own tragedy happening. This is the time to listen to each side and listen to each other. So much pain and fear that is as hot as the air in our own backyard.

Historically many tragedies befell the Jewish world on the 9th of Av-Tisha b’Av. The two temples were destroyed, in 1492 Spain expelled the Jewish population and the gas chambers of the Holocaust were put into operation to name a few.

However, on the 15th of Av-Tu b’ Av good things occurred. On the 15th of Av the relationship between the tribes of Judah and Israel were reestablished. The prohibition of intermarriage between the tribes was abolished and we were again enabled to flourish. This day became a day when hearts were mended and in turn became a day when all was forgiven and soul mates were now found. The Talmud connects this day to Yom Kippur. We have come through the despair and judgment.

 The month begins with the destruction of what many consider to be the standing heart of our faith and ends with the rebuilding of our heart through joining in love.

The letter that created the month is Caf and the letter that rules the sign for the month, which is Leo, is Tet. The soul fixing-tikkun- is hearing. The permutation is Hey Vav Yud Hey. The element of the month is the fire of Leo. The tarot card for Caf is Strength and The Wheel of Fortune for Tet.

kaph1305418727672Caf is connected to the source. Its numeric value is 20 which puts it in direct relation to the letter Yud whose value is 10. Yud is the letter that begins every other letter, every utterance. It is the closest to source, the divine, of all the energy paths of all the letters. Caf means palm, and the palm can catch that source and give it over-as in healing and holding the hands of connection, or the palm can close and hold back.

teth1305359499889Tet is the container that can hold, hide or share what it has, for good or for bad. It can vacillate and vibrate and beat like the heart of a lion or it can hiss like a serpent. Although Tet means serpent it also begins the word ‘good’ and also, according to Rabbi Akiva refers to mud. Its numeric value is nine which is a number of foundation. It is also a number that depicts work. Hence, the energy of Tet can help us to do the work we need to do through our hearts in this world. Serpents are also a most primal creature. They are wise and loving when they wrap themselves around you, but can also crush you. They shed their skin and move forward. A lesson indeed. And they are a form of the Divine Feminine. Women have capacity to embody both pain and joy. This is Av.

Leo is the fierce and magnanimous lover. Majestic and giving, Leo has a heart as big as the universe. This can warm you, but it can also burn you if it gets out of control. When you hear through your heart, it opens and becomes deep and quiet. Leo-the proverbial ruler of the forest-the one with ego enough to take on that position will thrive if that ego is healthy and unselfish. But an ego that is out of control has a roar that overrides everything else. It has no capacity to hear because it is using up all the airwaves. Leo can be  selfish and demanding of center stage as it can be giving. The fire of Leo can heal or destroy. The month is infused with the fires of the heart which emanates from Leo.

Hearing is the soul fixing-the tikkun- of this month. It is hard enough to hear your own thoughts and soul clearly with all the processing and inner work that goes on in Av, so being present enough to hear another can seem an insurmountable thing. But isn’t this what Av entails-rising above the insurmountable? To hear truly means to quiet yourself and take in another from their deepest depths to yours. True hearing involves all the senses, you see beyond the physical, touch beyond the outside. Until you can hear on this level, how can you really connect?

This is where the letters can help. To begin to hear another you need to give them yourself in total presence. Imagine your hands palms up-visualize the Caf and let its energy offer yourself to this person. And then, let the Tet energy help you receive and hear them.

One of the names for the ‘Creator’, the ‘Divine Intelligence’, or G-d is comprised of 3 Hebrew(one of the letters is used twice in this name) letters that are never pronounced. (The letters are just said in succession. This is a sign of respect for this particular energy. Let’s leave this for another newsletter.) As each month has a different energy, these letters are rearranged, or given different permutations to further enhance each month’s energy and teachings. They can also be meditated and energetically worked with.

There are 4(actually 5, but one is not ‘used’ in this system according to tradition) different spiritual worlds-of which ours is the lowest and most dense. Each letter is connected to one of these worlds. The letters are rearranged for each month, so the way the four worlds come into play varies, and again, imparts a unique teaching. These four worlds, from ‘highest’ to ‘lowest’ are Atzilut, Beriyah, Yetzirah and Assiyah.

All Hebrew letters also correspond to the Tree of Life and the energy centers-think of them as chakras on tree branches-that are 4 levels on the tree. These are, from highest to lowest- Keter, Chockmah/Binah, Zeir Anpin and Malchut.

The letters themselves, also stand alone with rich and deep meaning, levels and meditative and healing capacity.

So the permutation for Av is: (read from right to left)

heyyudvav aahey

(Hey Yud Vav Hey)

So just looking at the different levels, you can see that this month is about the reverberation between searching and intuiting for wisdom and understanding, to bringing in down into a form that which you can begin to understand, then releasing yourself to the highest source for inspiration and to imbibe you and then coming down to a level where you can really work with it. We go from level to level taking the energies and lessons and building upon them.

1-We reach upward to understanding and wisdom in the spiritual realm of archetypes

2-We bring this teaching to the world that forms our emotional landscape

3-We connect to the big ‘why, the higher source for deeper support of our souls

4-We bring this down to the more grounded world to grow and heal

Each month holds a different journey for us to make between these worlds.

So Av is about creation, re-creation, the holy within and without, the profane within and without. It is about listening, strength, the holy containers-ourselves and the divine, about mourning and rejoicing. We ponder the past and try to understand the reverberations they have on the future and our present. The world was created by contraction so that there could be a space for creation to occur. We contract to make space for others and for what else we need in our lives. We contract our inclination to hold onto what is no longer serving us so that we can make room for what we do need.

Ultimately, the temple is never lost because it resides within each of us.

 

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Trauma and Incarceration

present door

There’s No Place Like the Present

It has finally become understood that being incarcerated equals being traumatized. When someone suffers trauma, their whole life and world view lives through this lens.

The trauma that is caused by the incarcerated experience overlays the trauma that created the circumstances that led to the incarceration.

People who have had difficult lives often make their way through life reacting to and making choices through the lens of past pain. This pain, or trauma, has caused them to disconnect from part of themselves, so that they are not able to fully engage and be fully present in their lives and bodies.

When you live in this Past you cannot live in your Present

Nothing happens in a vacuum. What you do, what you feel, for good or not, is often influenced by your past experiences of peer pressure, abuse, anger, hurt, habit, family and generational history and story, trauma, earlier bad choices. These drivers help create the perfect storm for addiction, violence and crime.

When this is not addressed, as it most often is not, your body(your brain, nervous system and vagus nerve system) becomes stuck in the trauma response. Trauma imprints in our body memory through this sensory system and becomes our present state of being, whether we are aware of it or not.

Before our minds can recognize and analyze a situation, we receive stimulus/information through this sensory system.

This is the non-literate aspect of ourselves that creates the field for trauma reaction, or the reactive dissonance cycle, to set seed.

Our bodies respond to a situation that feels menacing before our brains cognitive capacity-our pre-frontal cortex- can step in to access whether this is the truth.

When you live through your past physical and/or emotional harm; your behavior, thoughts, emotions, physical and brain health today will reflect this. This will hinder you from moving forward to create the life you want.

So trauma is not about our cognitive capacity. It is about our body being set to interpret our surroundings and the interactions we have in it as a dangerous world.

Although you are living in one physical location of time (where), the actions of another time (when) in your life are influencing you today.

Life is not only Where you live but also When you live.

The trick is to get them to jive.

The good news is that there are ways that we can heal from our traumas.

 

 

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Why I Light Two Menorahs

why-i-light-two-menorahs

This has been a tough year for many personally, and for the country and world, it has been a collective mess. There was little helpful communication and much pain. People and their ideals were at each others throats. The earth has been under siege for many years, but this year we have seen the last straw begin to tear. I don’t think I know anyone who is not eager for this year to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Chanukah ushers in my favorite season of Jewish holidays: Chanukah, Tu B’Shevat and Purim. These are about light, growth, process and reaching beyond ourselves and facing the shadows and what holds us back. These are also about nature in a more direct way, and the deep mythos of the human spirit. We can swim in the primordial sea, so to speak. We can travel between realms. These are less about concrete history and more about attributes of the soul and of the community and earth as a whole. The historical significance of Chanukah is not lost on me, but it is not front and center.

And yes, all of the holidays reach deep within but for me the resonance of this part of the year is a little deeper for that; not that I don’t love each spoke of our holy wheel, though. I have certainly gone on about them all.

So why do I light two menorahs with one menorah adding candles each night and the other way reducing them? While I have discussed this in a past article, that also has other morsels about the holiday, (https://insighthealingdotcom.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/the-hebrew-month-of-kislev/), here is an additional insight, and I think for what we are faced with globally, a helpful practice.

Chanukah is in the Hebrew months of Kislev-the first 6 nights-and Tevet-the last 2 nights. Each month was created by a Hebrew letter. The letter Samech created Kislev and the letter Ayin created Tevet.

Kislev – Samech   01-15samech                  Tevet – Ayin    ayin

Samech reflects the concept of ‘Ain Soph’: the endless infinity that surrounds and sustains us. Like the circle that the Samech resembles, we are supported by the ever present and ever moving infinite reach of spirit and time. It can charm you with its welcoming moonbeam smile, but it also lets you know that you are part of it as well. Just like the Samech is a letter that is without end, we are also without end, as is our continuing human story. The letter means to support. This circle of support is there for us.

Ayin reflects the concept of ‘nothingness’. In Hebrew,’ Yesh M’ayin’ (in Latin-ex nihlio), translates to ‘something from nothing’. It is this absence that is necessary for the infinite to fill. It is non-being that waits for its creation. How can a no thing be a container that holds the thing of creation? How can light come from a cold candle wick. It becomes its potential by a flick of a spark that is within the head of a match. This is the act of creation from seemingly nothing. The letter Ayin means eye. We can see from nothingness if we have the spiritual eyes to see potential.

When we can see with the eyes that the Ayin offers us, our eyes, we can see into the void and to the other side. We can see the Samech and garner its support.

From nothingness to somethingness, from expansion to contraction; lighting candles that grow and diminish each night creates an energy flow in both directions. For those who experience this energy as a palpable force, I invite you to use this to radiate forward.  This is the richest metaphor that I can think of for where we are at this moment. These movements are the breathing of the universe, the breaths that we each take, the words that we each say, that can bestow love and understanding or hurt and anger.

This is what we need to do now. As we move toward a time when taking communal action to repair what has been broken must be a priority we need to be committed, to be brave and to be aware of what fires we light and how to reach without and within.

Tikkun Olam is Hebrew for repair the world. May we all be blessed to do just that.

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