Monthly Archives: March 2015

Passover

In honor of Passover beginning this week I thought I would share snippets from a custom Haggadah we use at our Seder.

I have very fond memories of Passover while growing up, but when I became an adult I realized that there were parts of the traditional Haggadah that I didn’t like. Starting in the 1970’s many other people started creatively changing and adding to the Haggadah to include values that reflected their ideas. But I found that none reflected what I wanted from the holiday. So I created one of my own. As the kids grew up, I would modify it annually, but the story continues to reflect our family values and principles of freedom, both physically and spiritually, for all people.

From our family Haggadah:

The first Passover was celebrated over 3000 years ago when the People of Israel were freed from the oppression of slavery. Jews have been celebrating this night for thousands of years. On this night, we come together to celebrate freedom and community with words both ancient and new.

On this night, we honor people who have struggled or are still struggling for their freedom. This week, people all over the world are observing Passover at their own Seders by reading through a Haggadah. The word “Seder” means, “order,” and “Haggadah” means, “the telling.”

On this night, we open our hearts and our doors to welcome family and friends to our table. The Haggadah describes the story that begins with the disgrace of slavery and ends with the glory of freedom. Passover cannot be complete until everyone around the table understands the lesson of the story: that the way things are is not the way things have to be; our world can be radically altered.

On this night, we break through our own narrow places, naming the pharaohs that oppress our lives and our spirits. We lift and point to symbolic foods that serve as signposts on the path toward freedom. Together we glimpse the possibility of liberation.

Each year, the Seder challenges us to change our perspective. The Haggadah helps us reframe our ancient story, distilling it and expanding it until it becomes our own. During the course of the Seder, we discover that our differences of perspective and experience become a source of strength and connection. When shared, our individual journeys become a part of collective memory.

 
On this night, we face the Pharaoh within and without, and are not afraid. Tonight, we name the challenge that is ours: to teach our children of the gift of freedom. Tonight we give thanks for the ability to tell this story again, bringing us back to the table with others who share our journey.

One task that many Jewish households do in order to get ready for Passover is to clean the home of all bread products and any other foods that ‘inflate.’ But we can also prepare ourselves by being willing to do a spiritual cleansing as well.

This cleansing would refer to the inner inflated or “puffed up” aspects of ourselves taking up space that could be reserved for higher more enlightened purposes: like being overly proud or jealous or angry. Think of our souls like big houses with many rooms, secret passages and connecting corridors. Our ‘issues’ are scattered about the house like crumbs.

One of our jobs on Passover is to search our spiritual homes –ourselves– with the compassionate understanding that there is no issue or problem so big or “puffed up” that it cannot be uncovered and removed once the light of awareness is focused upon it.

It is an old custom for us to rinse our hands before dipping food during the Seder. We are thinking about purification and cleansing in this season. As we wash, each person may also think about what they might like to “wash away” to set them free or how might we consider raising our hands in service during the upcoming year.

From an article in the San Jose Mercury News that talked about freedom and the meaning of Passover:

“What are the things that enslave me? I’d say repetitive patterns of behavior. That’s what Pharaoh was all about. There’s tremendous external pressure on this guy to let the Israelites go. The plagues. The advice of his own counselors. But nope, he can’t break the old pattern. He’s Pharaoh, and he always decides what to do, and he’s going to make that culminating mistake. But the truth is, we all act like that. It’s not obvious to us when we do it; it wasn’t obvious to him. People do lots of self-destructive things though not at the level he did.”

Passover teaches us that one of our central missions is to ask questions, to search our souls and explore our hearts. But our true liberation comes not from asking questions alone, although that is the beginning. Our liberation comes from the understanding and acceptance that not every question has an answer, and that not every problem can be neatly resolved.



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Miracles

My last post I wrote was about missing out on experiences because I had been Stealing from my life. The idea came from an article by Michelle Marlahan called 3 Ways to Practice Non-Stealing on Your Mat. I recognized that I have been stealing from my life for many years. I have been missing out on what is right in front of me because I spent too much time thinking and worrying about what I have yet to do and what I just did. I have read many essays and books on being present, in the here and now, but only recently I started understanding it on a much deeper level.

So for me now, it is all about being present in my life. Leaving the past behind and letting the future unfold. I wish I could say that I have been able to integrate this deep into my core, but alas, I can’t. I have spent too much time beating myself up for what happened in the past and obsessively worrying about what is going to happen in the future. But like any habit, how we think about our past, present and future is one that can be changed. And I am committed to changing my thinking right now.

I know that there have been relationships I have missed out on because I have hurried past people at break-neck speed, rushing to accomplish some goal or make some meeting or complete some other task that is now long forgotten. I have spent so much time over the years planning, being efficient, and organized. But in all that planning, what really happened? Did I miss out on experiences and relationships only to be better organized? Sadly I fear the answer is yes.

Next week is Passover, the annual celebration of freedom and renewal. It is one of my favorite holidays as it holds such promise and optimism. I never liked the traditional Haggadah (the book that Jews read from telling the story of Exodus). It has too many “chosen people” this and too many “God did that” for my taste, but the story about how Jews were slaves in Egypt and then rebuilt themselves into freed people is a promising one. It holds all sorts of stories about how we have the ability to change our mentality in how we think about ourselves and the world around us.

Here is one of the parables we read in our Haggadah about missing out on experiences because we are often caught on details that don’t matter and block our ability to see what is often right in front of us: miracles, both large and small.

“Moses held up his walking stick and the sea divided. The people walked across. When they got to the other side, the waters came crashing down on Pharaoh and his army. This was a miracle but many Jews have struggles with this part of the story. According to the tests even some of the people who were there, at the parting of the Red Sea, did not recognize the miracle at the time.

One story goes: Reuven and Shimon were so preoccupied with the muddy condition of the path they were walking on, and so intent on complaining, that they never looked up to see that the muddy floor they were walking across was the result of the sea having been parted.

What we can learn from this is that the issue is not necessarily whether the miracle happened, but whether or not we would be able to recognize a miracle if it did happen. Perhaps we are constantly in the presence of miracle but like Reuven and Shimon, we are simply unable to see them.”

What miracles have you seen lately?



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Stealing

I was surprised when my yoga teacher began to talk about stealing as I have never put theft and yoga together in my mind. She was quoting from an article that talked about how we steal from our lives without even realizing it. For instance, by worrying about running late or by spending too much energy on how we appear or by having our minds constantly wander – we may be missing out on the here and now. Words of wisdom for both on and off the yoga mat.

The concept of stealing from ourselves got me to thinking about my ongoing recovery from the accident I had last year which I have written about: Holiday Calamity: The Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Weird! and The Road to Recovery and I Make Bone, What’s Your Superpower? . The road to recovery has been long and slow but steady.

In the past, when recovering from injuries, I have yearned for getting back on my feet and into my life, full speed ahead. This time it is different. Yes, I want to be healthy with no worries about pain or setbacks, but I am not racing ahead, thrusting myself into my future. Maybe it is because I am not running a business and chasing my kids at the same time or maybe because I have grown up a bit since my last ankle surgeries, both 10 and 20 years ago.

In these last 3+ months, I have spent time piecing myself together emotionally and spiritually as my bones knit themselves into the strong rigid organs that they are meant to be. I have looked for patterns in my life that circle back to the dates of past ankle injuries and surgeries. I have found some interesting coincidences, but when I dig deeper I found something else. I have been stealing the actual experience of recovering from myself.

It all came together for me when I caught myself wondering when I will be able to flow through yoga class as easily and effortlessly as I used to; when will I be able to move my breath in and out with each pose as both an internal and external dance of energy? And then it hit me. By trying to get back to where I was (and who I was), I have been stealing from myself. I am not going to get to where I was.

That “me” is gone. I have a new me that is emerging from this experience. I am still able to move on the yoga mat with ease and joy, whether or not I can do the poses as I once did. I am still able to be a conduit for joy and love with or without a limp. There is no reason to think I won’t make a full recovery, but I now refuse to steal the recovery experience from myself.

And this got me thinking: What other experiences am I stealing from myself? When I am rushing around, what am I missing out on? What is happening around me that I don’t see or experience just so that I can get to some other moment? Am I truly here in the moment with the people around me? Or am I stealing from my experiences in all sorts of small ways that will add up to a life that was stolen, rushed, missed out on because I wasn’t present?

I will eventually be able to be on the mat again effortlessly and I will be able to walk again without a limp. But for now, this is what I am going through. Period. And when I am out on the other side I will not be who I was. We can never go back to who we were before life changing experiences. If we try to we are fooling ourselves and missing out on the richness of the new and still-to-come moments that may be even better than we thought possible.

What are you missing out on as you race through life? Or are you present with your experiences and those around you?



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Moving

Moving has always been considered one of life’s most stressful events. It is right up there with death and divorce. So what does it say about me that I actually enjoy moving? I know that it is a lot of work and a huge hassle. Moving brings chaos at all stages: packing, the moving, resettling. But I really like changing my environment. Does this make me a stress junkie? Unstable? Or what?

I like moving to a new home and organizing our furniture and live in a new and different way. I like imagining myself in new spaces as this allows me to picture myself in new ways. For me, a move means being able to have new dreams for what I want in and out of my life. It opens up new ways for me to create a life I want. Moving into a new space feels fresh and sparkly to me. It is a way that I mother myself.

When we moved back to northern California in 2008 we downsized in order to afford a home in a community with great public schools for our daughter. [It was a bonus that our son started a university that was a short 15-minute drive from where we moved.] Going from 3000 square feet to 1400 square feet was a huge challenge. I held estate sales and garage sales and Craig’s List Sales before the move. After unpacking into our 5 walk-in closets and installing an armoire, we were able to squeeze our full household into a lovely, but small, condo that met our ‘big picture’ needs: good public schools, near my husband’s work, in a community that was safe, welcoming and friendly.

Now, seven years later, we no longer need the local public schools. Additionally, we liked living a more urban lifestyle during our time in Australia. So we are opening our lives to moving chaos once again. For me, this will be my 17th move (not counting various college apartments and dorms). The joke is that I don’t know how to clean a house, but I sure know how to pack and unpack one!

But moving isn’t a joke. It takes a lot of work to muster up the energy to make such a change. And even though this is a local move, only 20 minutes from where we have been living, we will need to recreate our lives using new services: yoga studio, grocery, pharmacy, pet store, coffee shop, dry cleaners etc. And it might mean that some of our friends will choose to drop away because we no longer live nearby.

We hope to make new friends while keeping the old ones—that childhood song wasn’t wrong, after all! The optimist in me believes this is possible, but the realist knows that while absence makes the heart grow fonder in poems, many people are more the “love the one you’re with” kind of friends. In other words, proximity determines contact. This is one of the stresses and downsides to moving: we risk losing friends who we like.

Only time will tell who stays in our lives and who doesn’t. Did our year in Australia weaken friendship bonds such that this move will break them? Or have we made good enough friends for whom location doesn’t matter? Do they value us and the joy we bring to each other’s lives more than the convenience of running into each other while doing errands around town?

The bottom line is that this is a good move for us. We are getting a large home in an urban environment that is close to my husband’s work but not too far from family and friends for a LOT less money.

Here are some photos of our new home, staged by the previous owners.

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Moving is a crap shoot, either our lives will be better or they won’t. Most of the time it is a mixed bag: I am already thinking about what I will miss about living in our current community as well as what I am looking forward to about our new one. If at the end of the day there is more positive than negative than we are ahead. My dream is that this move will mean keeping dear friends, while making new ones and a new life for ourselves in a new environment.

How has moving gone for you? What did you regret? What was better?



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Excuses I tell Myself

Writing takes discipline and over time it becomes a habit. However, I have lost the habit. Last year I was in a groove while we traveled through OZ. Beyond writing and traveling, I had very few responsibilities and spent most of my time reveling in that. Yes, I cooked, I shopped, I worked out and I paid bills, but writing was built into my day. Since my injury last November, attempting to write while just sitting at a desk, with my feet on the floor – it has been terribly difficult. Sitting or spending too much time on my feet means swelling and pain – both which just get worse the longer I do either.  With limited time to be active or seated, I wanted to use it to walk around, go places, drive somewhere, take a yoga class, etc. So I allowed myself to get out of the habit of writing daily. But this was really just an excuse.

When I was a marketing consultant, I used to tell clients that it takes 3 weeks to make or break a habit. I know this from personal experience. This was how I quit smoking in 1984, how I finally lost 55 lbs. back in 2010-11 and how I reclaimed yoga in my life 2 years ago: one day at a time.

I made the decision to quit smoking and to stop overeating so as to welcome what I wanted in my life on a daily basis – I chose to create the habit every single day. This is how I mother myself. It isn’t always easy. It takes discipline. On days when I don’t feel like writing or eating healthy or working out, I take a moment to remind myself to look at the big picture and it smooths the way just enough for me to get my butt in gear and to move forward.

My latest excuse, on top of my foot pain, is our new adventure: we are moving from our suburban home to one in the city. For the past two weeks, I have been packing up, throwing out unwanted things and getting our current home ready for market (this link will take you to an electronic flyer for our listing). I have been telling myself that all my standing time needs to be spent sorting through our things, thinning out what is in our home and then storing what we want to keep. But this is just another excuse I tell myself.

The excuses I used to tell myself when I was fat and wanted to eat something that wasn’t good for me was that I had had a hard day (or night or week or month) and that I deserved being able to eat that muffin or drink that mocha or have a 2nd or 3rd helping. Or how unfair it was that my friends could eat [fill in the blank] and still look great, why shouldn’t I? But when I turned 50, and I started thinking of my life at 80, I realized how lame those excuses were. I started to accept who I am and what my body needs. So the reality is that while working on getting our home ready for sale has been hard work, it hasn’t really prevented me from writing. I prevented me from my writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been writing up a storm in my head. There have been posts about moving, about decorating, about empty nests, about Alzheimer’s, about loving and forgiveness and about healing. But that isn’t what I want. My hope is to be able to create short blog posts that touch other people in ways that motivate them to share my posts and/or post comments about the pieces. Having beautifully written pieces in my head won’t get it done. And they don’t mother me. Actual writing does.

So while I still have many distractions and way too many excuses, I will find a way to post more regularly. And hopefully those of you reading my posts will want to engage enough to share your thoughts and your comments.



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!