Strength within Strength, Day 9 of the Omer, Gevurah ShebeGevurah

Today is nine days, which is one week and two days of the Omer in the year 5781. גבורה שבגבורה, Gevurah ShebeGevurah, Strength within Strength, Judgement within Judgement, Discipline within Discipline.

Not quite as lost as last year

I still do not live up to the discipline in my head. My perfectionist brain castigates me for failing to stay focused on re-reading Tomer Devorah and writing my thesis. Mostly, I don’t listen to her anymore.

Today was a victory because I did not take it personally that my kid didn’t do his homework. I wrote his daily checklist and accepted that this would be another week of slowly catching up to the daily assignments. The younger one went denied he could do his work, thrashing about. Then, as happens most days, he settled down and completed his work. We all took the dog on her afternoon walk. I spent a few hours cooking dinner.

Yom HaShoah is coming…

Tonight I watched the magnificent Jewish Federation of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley‘s Yom HaShoah presentation. It reminded me how important contextualizing the Shoah, the Catastrophe, is. You may know the Shoah as the Holocaust. I choose not to use that name because I do not believe my Jewish brothers and sisters were burnt completely as a sacrifice to HaShem. Rather, I believe this Jewish genocide proves that evil lurks in every society. Humans are not infallible. Only by turning towards the Source of Goodness and Holiness can we have the prospect of bending the moral arc of the universe towards justice.

The Jewish day of remembrance for the Shoah and Heroes, גבורה, Gevurah, is situated on the lunar Jewish calendar on 27 Nisan, a week after Passover and eight days before Israeli Independence Day. It is during the time of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which began the day before Passover.

The heart of strength is being

In reality, no habit or discipline defines strength. There are many ways to be strong and it doesn’t always come together on a daily basis.

Define your path.

Clarify your values.

Attach yourself to something beyond yourself.

Be a conduit of Goodness.

Meet each day with love-filled eyes and search for hope and meaning.

This is the Being that I hope to resonate today and every day.

Books for the Journey

The Spiral of 9 Days

The heart of discipline during a pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

The lion within pursues me, 5779 / 2019.

Internal battles, 5778 / 2018.

Spiritual discipline and parenting a toddler, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Reynaldo Brigantty via Pexels.

Flow within Discipline, 8 Days of the Omer, Chesed ShebeGevurah

Tonight begins eight days of the Omer, which is one week and one day of the Omer in the year 5781. חסד שבגבורה, Chesed ShebeGevurah, Flow within Discipline.

Setting Healthy Boundaries, Flourishing Within Them

Every week, I marvel at how much I learn from my children. When i get overwhelmed, I let go of my boundaries. It is easy to swim in pools of malaise, doom-scrolling or mindless hours of binging streaming television. There’s one boundary that is crystal clear for my young kids: bedtime. I don’t mean that both of them recognize this need, but without fail — the older one will fall asleep, whether in front of the television or tucked in bed.

This is the key lesson I’ve learned in my seven years of parenting: boundaries allow children to truly flourish. Having clear guidance on what is and isn’t acceptable gives one the confidence to explore and become one’s truest self.

Second Week of the Omer: Gevurah / Din: Strength, Judgment, Discipline

Rather than seeing refractions of Chesed, this week we are meditating into the counterpart sephira. She has many names, most often גבורה and דין. Last week, I allowed the Divine emanations to wash over me. Today, I begin to take responsibility for bringing their power into my actions, speech, and feelings.

I marvel at the strength within a five year-old. Determined to learn to read, he followed instructions via Zoom transitional kindergarten and began the process of unlocking knowledge. Similarly, despite preferring graphic novels with scatological foci, my seven-year old kept his own reading an adult-oriented Haggadah. Their ability to move with the Flow of pandemic living and maintain a level of discipline is truly remarkable.

Flow within Discipline: the light touch of holiness

My rigidity has always been my stumbling block. When first learning the Sephirot, I laughed and said I was Gevurah to my partner’s Chesed. Now, instead of castigating myself for not being perfect, or not living up to my highest ideals, I choose to lean into Flow.

Flowing with Divine love and kindness, I accept my own limitations with grace. I lean into the moment and set aside my anxiety about the future. I marvel at the calm completeness within simple routines, like walking the dog.

Prayer for Flow within Discipline

Holy One of Blessing, help me to live into the flow of discipline. May I remember that boundaries help me be the best version of myself. Source of Life, help me remember that refracting my judgment through loving eyes brings deeper clarity and wisdom.

The Spiral of the 8th Day of the Omer

Your rod and Your staff guide me through the pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Contemplating martyrdom, Lori Gilbert Kaye, HaShem yikom dama, 5779 / 2019.

Discipline rooted in grace, 5778 / 2018.

The essence of discipline is love, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Máté Markovics.

Indwelling of Flow, Day 7 of the Omer 5781, Shekhinah ShebeChesed

Today is the seventh day of the Omer, which is one week in the year 5781. שכינה שבחסד, Shekhinah ShebeChesed, Eternal Presence of Covenantal Love.

Finding Words Beyond What I Already Said

I am struggling this year to write something that feels necessary to read.

I highly recommend my post from last year, where I poetically described how the Indwelling of Chesed is the full-bodied feeling of Grace.

Or perhaps my words from two years ago interest you. I wrote about the Sovereignty of Love

These posts bookend how Shekhinah, Indwelling and Malkhut, Sovereignty refract Chesed, Covenantal Love.

Stumbling around Shekhinah

The reality is that the Kabbalists saw Shekhinah / Malkhut as a purely passive refraction of the Divine. It is the only explicitly feminine sephira in the Omer count. Originally, Shekhinah existed as the blind receptacle for male creative energy. 

First of all, I can’t believe that every person involved in this system had that little understanding of feminine energy. Nor do I believe their sex lives were that uninspired that their wives simply laid there. After all, Yesod is connected to the penis and Shekhinah to the womb. 

Of course, I haven’t even gotten to the heteronormativity of traditional Judaism, nor it’s demand that a gender binary reign supreme. 

So, we complete a week of counting today. We close our journey through the iterations of Flow / Covenantal Love / Lovingkindness. And I stare into the abyss of androcentricity coursing through Jewish traditions. 

Prayer for Indwelling Flow

Holy Mother, Source of Creation: help us not fear You. May we be willing to see You in all Your strength and beautiful glory. God of Breasts, El Shaddai, may you hold us and comfort us during these uncertain times. May we have the presence to connect with Your Sovereignty in every moment of our days, and may Your Lovingkindness flow through us with ease.

Spiral of Today

Grace: the Indwelling Presence of God’s Love, 5780 / 2020.

The Sovereignty of Love, 5779 / 2019.

The Presence of Grace, 5778 / 2018.

The Indwelling of Love, 5777 / 2017.

Image by @jplenio via Pixabay.

Foundation within Flow, Yesod ShebeChesed: Day Six of the Omer, 5781

Today is six days of the Omer in the year 5781. יסוד שבחסד, Yesod ShebeChesed, Foundation within Flow.

Counting the Omer is a great pathway into Jewish spiritual engagement. For over half my life, I had no idea any of this even existed within Judaism. The energy of Yesod strengthens our resolve to bring forward these meatphysical concepts into our everyday lives.

Foundational Flow

How do you connect the metaphysical concepts of Goodness, Kindness, Strength, Boundaries, Beauty, Truth, Endurance, and Splendor into material reality? What is the foundation of your spirituality?

We all need more than beautiful platitudes. Pledging allegience to values — whether done three times a day in traditional prayer services, once a week on Shabbat, or once a year on the High Holy Days — means nothing without right action. Living into Divine Flow requires creating a foundation within ourselves for the Goodness that reaches towards us in every moment.

Choose Life

When I was younger, I owned a poster based on dialog from the movie Trainspotting. We all get to choose how we live our lives and what we prioritize in life. How can we become a conduit for our best selves? Do we choose to allow life to happen to us or do we take control of our feelings, thoughts, and actions? Do we prioritize external possessions or internal character traits?

Prayer for Foundational Flow

I pray for the discipline and will to build a Temple within myself. I pray to bring forward the best version of myself and to allow Divine Flow to move through me, creating a gracious demeanor and words of lovingkindness.

Six Days of Omer Spiraling Through Time

Spiritual Technology to Reinforce Your Foundation: 5780 / 2020.

Internal and External Foundations for Love: 5779 / 2019.

Channeling Divine Energy into Everyday Life: 5778 / 2018.

Actualizing Love: 5777 / 2017.

Companions for the Journey

Image by Pok Rie via Pixabay.

Day Five of the Omer 5781: Splendor within Flow, Hod within Chesed

Today is five days of the Omer in the year 5781, הוד שבחסד, Hod ShebeChesed, Splendor within Flow.

Netzach and Hod are twin sephirot. They are the pillars of the Temple within, the legs of a person, creating space for the Ultimate to have an impact on the material world. Hod welcomes us to revel in a well-kept home and a well-ordered mind. Perhaps you Bullet Journal to stay focused on what is most important to you. Or you declutter your home and remove items that are no longer sparking joy. These activities are infused with Hod energy. By setting everything in its place, we create the opportunity for Divine Flow to enter our world.

Today, we begin to imagine using our expanded consciousness within material reality. We make space for others and reflect on clear communication. May you have the opportunity today to pause and reflect on one way you would like to transform your physical reality and one way to bring forward your authentic self into your relationships.

Books to guide the journey

Spiral of Day Five of the Ome

Moments of Splendor During a Pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Clarifying the Nature of a Sephira, 5779 / 2019.

The Majesty of Every Day, 5778 / 2018.

A Prayer for Humility, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Enrique Lopez Garre via Pixabay.

Four Days of the Omer 5781: Endurance within Flow, Netzach within Chesed

Today is four days of the Omer in the year 5781, נצח שבחסד, Netzach ShebeChesed, Endurance within Flow.

Interrogate your story

There is a beautiful explanation of this day in Benji Elson’s book, Dance of the Omer. Elson suggests picking up the rocks, the stumbling points, within your life. Examine each rock with a child’s curiosity. Try to see it from a new angle. Try to create a new version of your story, wherein the stumbles are not roadblocks. Rather, they are stepping stones.

Brené Brown provides clear detail on the power of story and the way in which transforming our stories helps us to become our truer selves in her newest book, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Perhaps the hardest thing I have ever faced in life is the stranglehold that my internal narrative had on me. Paying respect to the way those stories helped you become the person you are today, holding the rock and giving it permission to sink into the flow of the river — that is deep work.

Prayer for Enduring Flow

Holy Mother of the Universe, Fount of Blessings, I embrace You. I welcome Your Shefa, שפע, Your Divine Flow, into this day. Every moment, I pray to stay connected to Your Enduring Flow. I pray for the discernment to know that cynicism is a trap of the inclination towards destructiveness. May I remember that the child within is neither naive nor helpless: she is willful and determined to be a conduit of Goodness and Holiness, Joy and Inner Wellbeing.

Guideposts for the Journey

The Spiral of Four Days of the Omer

Enduring will to nurture covenantal love: Day Four, 5780 / 2020.

Enduring prophetic love: Day Four, 5779 / 2019.

Choose grace in every moment: Day Four, 5778 / 2018.

Honoring the triumph of enduring love: Day Four, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Kai Vogel via Pixabay.

Three Days of the Omer 5781: Beautiful Flow, Tiferet within Chesed

Today is three days of the Omer in the year 5781. תפארת שבחסד, Tiferet ShebeChesed, Beautiful Flow. No matter how terrible the world is, Beautiful Flow is eternally available. I sink into the flow of existence and become truly alive.

Awakening to the emerging reality

I have not let myself imagine the emerging reality. It has been hard to make decisions to keep my family safe and to keep us growing into ourselves. So my children will not return to physical school until August. Nevertheless, my youngest learned to read via Zoom transitional kindergarten. And today is my day to receive my first COVID-19 vaccine. Science is awe inspiring. At the edges of science lies the mystery pulsing through every atom of the universe.

The beautiful flow grounding us in our shared reality sings out to us. Allowing myself to stop and taking in the beauty of each moment helps me to reconnect with Tiferet within Chesed, the beautiful wholeness of grace.

Concepts delight me

During my chaplaincy internship at a community hospital, patients honored me with the truth of their belief in a physical manifestation of the Divine. For myself, nothing is truer than the ephemeral nature of the material world.

I can play with the anthropomorphic descriptions of El Shaddai, God of Breasts, throughout my prayer book. We all deserve to receive sweet sustenance in moments of despair. Being given honey from the rock refers to the miraculous nature of the Divine embrace. And yet, the physical metaphors delight me and ground me, especially when my brain is awash in the latest uptick in COVID cases, or yet another Asian American elder being beaten for no reason.

Prayer for Beautiful Flow

God of Breasts, Divine Mother, allow me the gift of beautiful flow. May I remember You are the Source of Being. Allow me space between receiving action and taking action. Make my spoken words connected to the deepest part of myself. Grant me the ability to sink into my gratitude for this vaccine, rather than diminishing myself in my continued prayers for humanity.

The Never-Ending Spiral of Today

Nourish my soul with the knowledge of God’s existence, 5780 / 2020.

Balance the energy of overflowing love and clarifying boundaries, 5779 / 2019.

Harmonize all-encompassing love and discipline, 5778 / 2018.

Praying to emulate fortifying, harmonious love, 5777 / 2017.

Books for the journey

Image by Mike Goad via Pixabay.

Two Days of the Omer 5781: Boundaries within Grace, Gevurah within Chesed

Today is two days of the Omer, 5781. גבורה שבחסד, Gevurah ShebeChesed, Boundaries within Grace. The human soul expands beyond its previous limits through spiritual discipline.

This immersive week of flowing within the light of the Divine requires clear boundaries. If you try to only catch the flow, you’re more likely to succumb to a mirage. Far too many people have been lost to the false messiah of hallucinogenic drugs. True freedom requires discipline, strength, and the ability to say no. May you find comfortable limits and gentle discipline to help you expand into yourself.

Spiritual discipline in unprecedented times

To be clear, I am no saint. If you are looking for advice on parenting during a pandemic, look elsewhere. I am treading water as I stumble towards becoming a better parent, and helping my children grow into themselves. Similarly, my spiritual discipline has waxed and waned in the last year. Recently, health issues broke me away from my daily prayer practice and I am struggling to regain my footing.

One thing is clear: I know how to help myself move into the flow. Jewish prayer has always swept me away. Before I understood a single word, the tradition spoke to my soul in a way I have never been touched by human speech or writing, regardless of the number of books I read. Experiencing the flow — whether in daily prayer, daily meditation (which, frankly, my prayer is my meditation), daily yoga, or daily woodworking: that flow is the Holy Mother of the Universe reaching towards us, encouraging us to be our best selves.

Give yourself the gift of recognition.

Choose a spiritual practice

Commit yourself to one spiritual act for the rest of the Omer count (beyond the counting itself). Whether that is conscious breathing for five minutes a day, or mindful stretching when you wake up and when you lie down: choose something. Accept an activity that will require your full body’s attention. Set aside your phone. Ignore the people around you. Choose to Be with yourself and with the flow.

Prayer for strength within the Divine Flow

I pray for the strength to stay within the Divine Flow regardless of what is happening around me. I pray that my resistance will lessen, and I will be able to outsmart my Inclination towards Destructiveness (my Yetzer HaRa). May the Divine Flow speak through me and help my children recognize that discipline is necessary for true joy.

The spiral of this day…

Discipline in Covenantal Love, Two days of the Omer 5780 / 2020

Clear Vision Beyond Existential Anxiety, Two days of the Omer 5779 / 2019

Healthy Boundaries in Love, Two days of the Omer 5778 / 2018

Boundaries in love? (Beginner’s mind), Two days of the Omer 5777 / 2017

Guidance for the journey

The North Platte River in Wyoming, photographed by 1778011 from Pixabay.

One Day Omer 5781 Flowing into Being

Today is one day of the Omer in the year 5781, Chesed Shebe Chesed חסד שבחסד, Covenantal Love within Covenantal Love, Grace within Grace, Loving Kindness within Loving Kindness. The Omer begins with stepping into the Divine Flow and allowing the river of being to engulf you.

As with every single year, I am hesitant to begin. Counting the Omer is one of the most meaningful parts of my spiritual year. Nevertheless, my pandemic malaise / anxiety would rather keep me staring at streaming videos rather than digging into truth.

Companions on the journey

Two new books are with me to help me on this journey. My dear friend, Erev Rav Debi Lewis, gifted me Color the Omer: 49 days of beauty & reflection. Another sister on the road to spiritual leadership, Tamy Jacobs, encouraged me to seek out the book Dance of the Omer: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Transformational Journey of Sefirat Ha’Omer. This book, by Benji Elson, seems to be a spiritual sibling of my journey. It is deeply rooted in traditional sources, a choice that might be off-putting if you are looking for a source that honors the feminine and nonbinary aspects of being as completely as it does the masculine.

Nevertheless, I have not met another book that feels as important to this spiritual practice as Dance of the Omer. I think it is a particularly easy to read primer on the Sephirot generally, alongside their connection to davennen (prayer), meditation, and embodied spirituality.

Flowing into Being

As Elson suggests in Dance of the Omer, today we sink into The Flow. Recognize that who we are is exactly who we need to be. This journey towards ourselves is not actually about changing — it is about letting go of the thoughts, feelings, and actions that keep us from being the best versions of ourselves.

Today, I choose to flow into myself. I will accept my need to let go and sleep and read and be. The path seems clearer than it did a year ago. I am blessed to have an appointment for my first vaccine dose. I am blessed that none of my family members were lost to this virus. Today, I choose to be.

Prayer for Day One, Chesed: Divine Flow within Divine Flow

May I release myself from guilt and anxiety. Circumscribe my speech, softening myself into the Divine Flow. Letting myself play with the people near me physically and spiritually. Oh, ever-flowing river of Divine Love, gently move us away from this plague and towards the future unfolding.

New Books

The spiral of this day…

One day of the Omer 5780 / 2020 / Covenantal Love in pandemic year one

One day of the Omer 5779 / 2019 / A meditation on grace

One day of the Omer 5778 / 2018 / Sink into grace and love

One day of the Omer 5777 / 2017 / Hesitant first steps of public counting

How to count the Omer

Image by Monika Iris from Pixabay.

Entering the first month

Traditional Jewish time recognizes multiple years within a year. Based on the flow of agriculture, spring is the natural beginning of the year. So the first month of the Jewish year is Nisan, which we have just entered. Yet, our spiritual year begins in the seventh month, on Yom Zikhron Teruah, more widely recognized as Rosh Hashanah.

Rather than get in the weeds of how to understand Jewish time, let me offer a pandemic analogy. A day can feel like a year and a month goes by in an instant. Therefore, we need multiple reminders of the journey we are on. The journey towards our core selves, towards deep knowledge and wholeness.

Now we enter the season of physical rebirth. Surrounded by the physical and animal world coming back to life, springing forward into new possibilities.

Personally, I am cautiously optimistic that the coming year will allow more occasions to be together physically than the previous year. My immediate family remains cautious, as we are not eligible for vaccines. Deeply grateful that our parents are fully vaccinated.

May the month of Nisan bring the winds of change into our souls. May we make space for change and may we rejoice in our own rebirths. Taking nothing for granted, reveling in the marvel of being alive, my soul expands into this first month of the rest of my life.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay