WEEKLY STRETCH ~ 9-29-16 Happy New Year!!

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Photo credit to Deb Lazare

NOTE: This post was written last night. This morning during rush hour there has been a disastrous train crash in Hoboken, NJ not far from where I live. I hold in prayer all those who have lost their lives, their families, those who are injured and the first responders who run into disasters when others are running out. Join me in holding this situation in thought and prayer.

Sunday evening is the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, a time when Jewish people pause to reflect on the previous year and set intentions for the one to come. Families gather in synagogues to worship in community. One of the rituals of this holiday is called “tashlich”, which means “casting off” in Hebrew and involves symbolically casting off the sins of the previous year by tossing pieces of bread or another food into a body of flowing water. Personally I don’t care for the word “sin”. I prefer “mistake” or “missing the mark”, but you get the idea. I am an interfaith minister and as such I identify with many of the worlds traditions. I was also born into the Jewish tradition, and although I do not attend synagogue, nor am I what would be considered “observant”, I find great meaning in certain traditional rituals of my birth religion. This is one that I particularly love and I’ve created my own little ceremony to share with my immediate family during this holiday. We go to the Delaware Raritan Canal nearby and together we recite some of the traditional prayers, share our thoughts about the significance of the day, then sprinkle breadcrumbs into the water as a gesture of removing anything that doesn’t serve us, making space for a new way of being. We all look forward to family time, special traditional foods, and remembering the elders of our family who are gone from us physically. It’s a time for sharing memories, stuffing ourselves with traditional yummies, and tremendous laughter and joy. Our family knows how to “ring in the new year” Jewish-style.

Rosh Hashanah is considered the Jewish new year and the week following is called “the days of awe” which lead up to the most significant holy day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. During the “days of awe” we are invited to forgive ourselves and others and to notice the cleansing effect forgiveness has on our being. On Yom Kippur one is asked to empty themselves of their worldly lives and open themselves to receive a sort of spiritual cleansing and refreshment. The tradition says that we ask to be “inscribed in the book of life” for another year.

As a child I would attend what is commonly called “high holidays” services with my father and grandfather. The liturgy was fascinating to me in many ways. It also scared the shit out of me because I thought the big bearded man in the sky that was the god of my youthful understanding was taking notes on whether I deserved to go on to another year or had filled my dance card full to the brim with “sins” and I would be denied my place in the book this time. It took years of inquiry, questioning, digging, turning over stones, and lots and lots of forgiveness for me to find my spiritual way, integrating the beauty of my birth tradition into my life in a way that touches my heart and connects me to the depth of my heritage and ancestry without the trappings of dogmatic blind observance. Over time I was able to heal a great chasm that had developed between me and my birth tradition and I’ve had the great honor of helping others to heal their own brand of religious injury from a variety of the worlds religious traditions. (And by the way, the healing process is ongoing, AND I’ve come a very long way!)

As I approach this year’s “tashlich” moment I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to consciously cast off the ways in which I have missed the mark this past year and to have the time and space to reflect on ways that I can forgive…refresh…cleanse…and move forward into a fresh new year filled with promise and possibilities. I know that my name (and yours) is inscribed in that Big Book, that I am a work in progress, that the god of my understanding is the essence of Love and that Love lives as a shining eternal light I my heart and yours, and that forgiveness is the way to grace. May we all know the depth and breadth of the Love that is our birthright, now and always.

STRETCH: Think about the traditions in your life that fill you with a sense of connection to family or ethnic underpinnings. Create space in your life for meaningful ritual that honors your ancestors and reminds you of the shoulders on which you stand. You are because they were.

WEEKLY STRETCH 9-22-17 ~ SHORTER DAYS OF BOUNTY

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Fall sky, 9-21-16 by Franne Demetrician

All week I’ve been aware of the changes happening. It’s not as if I haven’t written about this before. I wrote about it last fall and in the spring…and here we are again as the planet takes “one more ride around the sun” (a lyric from an amazing song by a friend of ours, Ernie White). Fall is my favorite season, and yet as it begins and I smell the familiar aroma of withering foliage and the feel of a much cooler breeze on my skin, I’m also aware that I feel a certain melancholy as summer moves further and further away and the prospect of getting to the beach just one more time disappears from my reality. Of course a trip to the beach in fall is wonderful too…but there won’t be a bathing suit (not a fan of the Polar Bear Club personally) or a jug of iced tea. Nope…more like a jug of hot chocolate and layers of clothes to keep the chill out. I love summer and the sense of freedom it brings and I feel sad when it leaves and takes all that bright sunlight and spaciousness with it. But fall…that’s another thing entirely. As the container begins to pull inward the artist in me is filled to the brim with the delights of the changing environment – colors becoming enlivened and vibrant, smells of burning leaves and baking pies, golden sunsets that vibrate with majestic colors of yellow, orange, hot pink, and red, crisp air that seems to bring a sort of golden clarity to everything. Unfortunately, fall also brings some physical challenges that require a bolstering of my inner wisdom, strength, and courage to meet them. Some of the physical challenges resulting from the change in season are within my control, but many are not and that can put a big damper on my enjoyment of the aforementioned “delights”.

So I’m faced with some choices as the days slowly but surely shorten, the golden glow of evening intensifies, and the chill in the air becomes more and more sweater-worthy. It’s a glass half-empty glass half-full equation really. Be sad and melancholy, dread the discomfort, and pull inside; OR welcome the banquet of riches in color and sensory treats, rejoice in the fact that I’m still here to partake in the aromas and tastes, and open wide to the chill with my cozy sweaters and blankets for extra company.

October 14th is our 26th wedding anniversary. We chose fall because we simply love this season the most and because it felt like us – colorful, bountiful, delicious and rich. Our days are frequently measured by the choices we make. Today…this week…I choose the delights before me. Last night as I waited for my turn with yet another doctor the sky was ablaze with orange and hot pink light – the sort of sunset we only see during these fall evenings. Everyone in the office had their noses pressed to the windows wanting to catch the beauty of it and take it in. I snapped a photo on my way in the door and have shared that photo with you. I’m choosing beauty over pain and am grateful that the season is offering me the magnificent distraction as I make my way through. The Universe knows how to make it all better. I’ll take it any way I can get it!!!

STRETCH: More choices! We are all facing one challenge or another. Step away from whatever challenges, hurts, or makes you crazy…just for a few moments. Find beauty and take those few moments to simply appreciate, to notice, to see that there is MORE…more in your life than the challenges you are facing.

WEEKLY STRETCH 9-14-16 ~ RELUCTANT SURRENDERING!

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I had plans. I was going to hang with a dear friend doing something I really wanted to dos; something just for me. I’ve been looking forward to attending this big event, Hay House’s I Can Do It Conference, in Philadelphia, for months. I was looking forward to hearing some of the most inspiring speakers in the world, and I was especially looking forward to seeing our friend Mike Dooley again. I was really excited about this little trip. Notice the past tense. Well, yesterday I got the news that the pneumonia I thought I had dodged two weeks ago decided it wasn’t quite ready to leave town and pitched a tent in my lungs for a longer stay!! And the prescription is a longer course of antibiotics and r e s t. Being s t i l l. Taking it e a s y. Don’t like this plan much since I’ve been there and done that quite recently, albeit apparently not quite enough. So today I’m sulking, and cranky, and want to have a full blown, all-out tap dancing child-like tantrum. I want to kick and shout and break something. OK, I know that sounds like a bit of an over-reaction, but dammit, I’m disappointed and I deserve a tantrum.

All that said (no I didn’t kick anything or beat anything up, or break anything…yet) I know that the message is that I can do nothing else right now but surrender…like it or not (not!). My body has essentially done everything short of dropping a piano on my head to tell me, “Hey I know you had plans, but here’s the deal…change ‘em.” So reluctantly I have surrendered. I canceled my hotel reservation and told my friend I won’t be attending. I’ve stayed in my PJ’s, swallowed gallons of liquid, took my antibiotics and tons of supplements, rested, rested, rested…and accepted my fate. There’s an old Yiddish expression, “Menchen tracht und Got lacht”, which translates to, “People plan and God laughs”. I love cultural colloquialisms. They bring a sense of humor to situations that make us crazy. In the grand scheme of things this is tiny bump in the road and I’m grateful for good doctors, antibiotics and the command to “be still”. And it’s a lesson in surrender, in acceptance of what is, and in humility. It’s also been a great opportunity to pay attention to my inner wisdom which has been telling me for several days that something wasn’t quite right. I’m glad I stopped long enough to listen and take myself to the doctor. Surrender is not giving up. It’s allowing what is to be without the wasted energy of resistance.

So I’ll continue to plan, and hope that when God needs a good laugh she looks elsewhere next time. For now I hope she’s enjoying it and I’m digging deep to laugh with him. Reluctantly I surrender and that has been my stretch this week. Here is yours:

WEEKLY STRETCH: Ask yourself what you are resisting and where you might need to surrender. Allow yourself to reclaim the energy lost when you resist what is.

*P.S. The photo is borrowed from a posting I found on a blog entry about surrender. I spoke with the auther, Lorraine Cohen, and she graciously gave me permission to offer it to you. It’s worth the read: http://lorrainecohen.com/surrender-resistance-futile/

WEEKLY STRETCH 9-9-16 ~ KALEIDOSCOPE EYES

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There’s a little town we visited during our vacation. Jerome, Arizona is a tiny old mining town nestled on the side of Cleopatra Hill and we love visiting every time we go west. A trip to Jerome begins with a long curly drive with switchbacks that take you up 5,600 feet and your breath away. It’s truly a thrill ride! It has a fascinating history…very Old West…all about copper mining, houses of “ill repute”, guns and horses, bad guys and good guys…the usual; known to be haunted by many of these colorful characters. Today it’s an artsy little Mecca, and home of our favorite barbecue restaurant on the planet aptly named “Bobby D’s BBQ” (my husband is Bob Demetrician), and one of the coolest and most interesting specialty stores I know. Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes is an amazing place, loaded wall to wall with one kaleidoscope after another. Huge ones, stranges ones, colorful ones, tiny ones…one looks like a baseball, one is all about steampunk and crystals, and another is focused on flowers. The store hangs off the side of the mountain and walking all the way to the back of the to their little balcony one is treated to a magnificent view of the red rocks of Sedona in the distance and sky…sky as far as you can see. We usually spend hours there looking into every kaleidoscope as if we’ve never seen it before, always finding something new each time we look. An each time we visit I fall in love with one particular piece and promise myself I will save my money so I can buy one next time we come.

This trip I decided I’d buy myself a personal kaleidoscope. It’s tiny and hangs around my neck from a chain. I’m calling it my “starter kaleidoscope”. I love it. What I love about it and about kaleidoscopes in general is how it gives me a lens through which I can look at ordinary things and see them rearranged in different patterns, mixing up the pieces and changing what I see with every movement and shift in light and setting. I love that I can place this little tiny tube with a specialized bulb at the end up to my eye, turn it ever so slightly, and see the world differently…rearranged…forcing me to look at everything around me differently. And I love that I am the one turning it, and as I look at the amazing interplay of light and color I see a consistent connection between all of the shapes rhythmically unfolding themselves. The magic of the kaleidoscope brings up many different metaphors for how I look at things and how I see them. Certainly one is that there are so many different ways to see one thing or one situation or one event. Another is that “ordinary” and “extraordinary” are a hairsbreath away from each other. And still another…everything…everything is connected.

What I’ve decided to do with my little “starter” is to take time once per hour to stop and look through it. It’s my “mindfulness moment” and each time I do it I feel my breathing slow, my energy soften, and my world expand. It reminds me that I have the power to look at things through a different lens, especially things that are daunting or upsetting. I love my little kaleidoscope. It’s my “starter”. Next time I’ll be getting the bigger one with all the wild colors and lightning bolts. For now, I like having this one around my neck. It’s great practice.

STRETCH: Take time each day to stop and look, really look at what is directly in front of you. Look at the colors, the shapes, the lights and the darks. Then take a few steps to the right or left and look again. What has changed? How are you seeing it differently? Where is the light source now? Have the colors changed? Imagine how you might look at other things differently in your life.

WEEKLY STRETCH 9-1-16 ~ PUSHING LIMITS AND READINESS

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Photo by Franne Demetrician, 3,500 feet on Bell Rock, Sedona, AZ

Re-entry from our magical vacation in Sedona was a little bit rocky. Our brother and sister-in-law’s beloved dog went missing as we were flying home (happy to report she’s been found after a frantic 2-day search), and I came home with what turns out to be preliminary symptoms of pneumonia (on meds and will be fine). An interesting study in contrast!

I pushed my limits last week and am proud to say I climbed harder trails that took me higher on the mountains than I have ever gone. And from those high points I could see more of Creation than ever before. It was a breathtaking majestic sight. I turned 67 on August 16th and I must say I feel pretty great that I could do all that I did last week. It makes me feel excited about the next level I can achieve when we go hiking up the mountains in Sedona again in the spring. It’s not lost on me that when I pushed my imagined limits I was able to go farther and higher. I realize that the limits I hold in my heart and mind could be keeping me from going further, higher and wider on the other “mountains” I’m climbing.

I’ve been invited to do an editorial review of a new book which I’ve been working with for the last week or so. A message in this book that hit me was about pushing limits and the idea that we can go beyond what we think we can do in big leaps or in baby steps. No rules here. I loved the way the author described it and took the message to heart. For me and the mountains it has been baby steps leading up to some big ones. And I can see how I can apply this to all the other areas of my life that present perceived limits or barriers. The concept isn’t new. We teach this in our Infinite Possibilities classes. What’s new is the practical application of it in a very big way for me this past week and how ready I am to take more steps and leaps in my life and my work. I think the idea of “readiness” is one I will think about for the next few days. Then more steps.

STRETCH: Ask yourself, “Am I ready to step out of my comfort zone…with baby steps or leaps…in a way that brings me to the next level of my life (or work or relationship)?” If the answer is “yes” take one step…one step at a time. If the answer is “no”, wait for it. The “yes” is just around the corner.