Boundaries within Foundation, 37 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty-seven days, which is five weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5781. גבורה שביסוד, Gevurah ShebeYesod, Boundaries within Foundation. This year, reflecting on the contours of the personality. Does it align with my highest vision for myself?

Our boundaries are misaligned with our highest potential. The mishappen gate in the picture can represent all the ways this pandemic has altered the course of lives, in ways both obvious and unknown.

Separate from ruminating on COVID-19, a personality can imprison us in bad habits, ideas, and identities. The cyncial, angry activist sees everything in the world as needing fundamental change. The consummate peacemaker can give into the whims of a tyrant until their own identity ceases to exist. Extremes in any direction lead down false paths. Flourishing occurs within the middle path, balancing all aspects of one’s personality.

This starts with a clear vision of the person you want to be. I knew the best version of myself emerged in Jewish communal prayer. I wanted to sink into that aspect of myself and moved myself, slowly, towards rabbinical school in order to better embody that aspect of me. Eleven years into this journey, I am constantly seeking further refinement. My interpersonal habits are deeply ingrained from childhood. This is why bullet journaling and the science of habits speak to me. Each year is an opportunity for me to become the best version of me I can be in this moment.

Define your vision

To understand the contours of my personality, I read about the Shadow, the Enneagram, and Neurosis. Carefully, day by day, I remind myself that who I was before does not define who I am in this moment or in the future. The grip of the story I told about myself began to loosen.

I remain a work in progress. Rather than trying to appear Perfect to my children, I admit my faults and let them know I am working to become a better parent. Just as my ability to preach is a never-completed process, so too is my ability to parent. Decide what relationships are most important to you. Clarify how you want to show up in each situation, especially the stressful ones. And hold yourself accountable to your vision.

Books for the journey

Previously today…

Boundaries during COVID-19, 5780 / 2020.

Boundaries in Bonding, 5779 / 2019.

Don’t lose yourself to the crowd, 5778 / 2018.

Discipline in interpersonal relationships, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Tim Hill via Pixabay.

Lovingkindness within Bonding, 36 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty-six days, which is five weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5781. חסד שביסוד, Chesed ShebeYesod, Lovingkindness within Bonding. Yesod can be described as Bonding or Foundation. The week of allowing all of the emanations of holiness to flow through me. Or the week of distracted defiance of the eternal. We each choose how to live into the week.

I choose to take the time to consolidate all of the wisdom and inspiration of the prior five weeks. This week of bonding will form a vision for my embodied experience that aligns with these supernal qualities calling me.

Transforming personality to align with values

The Sephirot describe eternal values. The stories I tell about myself can either describe a rigid personality marching through time. Or, I can emphasize the opportunities for growth in each moment. Did I face life’s challenges swimming in lovingkindness and truth? Or did I choose rigidity, judgment, and anger?

With adults, rooted in adult-level rationality, I find it easier to stay calm and open. With my children, I falter. They seem pre-programmed not to listen to basic instructions. So far, I consistently receive the following advice: stop caring whether your kid finishes his homework. For some reason, my partner and I cannot stop caring.

Nevertheless, my goal is transforming my responses to my kids away from judgment towards compassion. Perhaps I will reach my goal when they’re in their thirties.

Prayer for foundational lovingkindness

Soul of Souls, Source of Creation:

Envelop me in your Divine Flow.

Allow me the strength to be a source of lovingkindness.

Help me to reach towards my children and the world with eyes of compassion,

rooted in love.


Previously today…

Covenantal Love in Personality, 5780 / 2020.

Nurturing the child within, 5779 / 2019.

Embracing full-throated love, 5778 / 2018.

Selfless love and covenantal communities, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Monika Iris via Pixabay.

Indwelling of Gratitude, 35 Days of Omer 5781

Today is thirty-five days, which is five weeks of the Omer in the year 5781. שכינה שבהוד, Shechinah ShebeHod, Indwelling of Gratitude.

Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we could dwell in the sacred knowing of our interconnectedness every moment? If the gratitude and splendor forever surrounding us infused every response? If instead of pandemic fatigue, we met each day with joyful excitement and wonder?

Magic wands wont save us. Belief in the power of gratitude alone cannot change us. Instead, we much do the painful work of walking towards change.

First, slow down long enough to observe what sets you off. Before I get angry, what is the spark? Before I started doomscrolling, was I bored? How can I offer myself a different response to each stimulus that leads to the same reward? This is the true work of spiritual transformation: recognizing that each day, we choose better and worse ways to respond to what is happening beyond us and within us.

May the Indwelling of Gratitude, marking the completion of five weeks of counting emanations of Divine overflow, help me transform my habits. May I emerge calmer and more deeply rooted within the speech and actions I wish to embody.

Previously today…

Grieving the profound loss of Dr. Bob Levy, may his righteous memory forever passionately envelop us, 5780 / 2020.

Splendor gives us life, 5779 / 2019.

Allowing Splendor to Flourish, 5778 / 2018.

Bonding with the Infinite, 5777 / 2017.

Still reading…

Image by Pixabay via Pexels.

Foundation of Gratitude, 34 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty-four days, which is four weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5781. יסוד שבהוד, Yesod ShebeHod, Foundation of Gratitude.

It is imperative to build a bridge between how I am feeling and the wellspring of gratitude. Regardless of how stressful the day is, or how overwhelming the year is: I should root my thoughts, emotions, and speech in gratitude.

Some days, the breadth of the pandemic overwhelms me. The never-ending drum beat of What Should Be Done crashes into the reality of What Holds Me Back. This was one of those days.

Welcoming the Sabbath Bride

I pray that the Sabbath Bride will envelop me in a spirit of gratitude. Let me remember love and understanding undergird my relationships. May she help me make space for all the ways each of us are doing the best we can. Even the children who don’t do their homework and never want to go to sleep.

The book I’m reading

Previously today…

The Enneagram and Personality Types, 5780 / 2020.

The Ethereal Meets the Material, 5779 / 2019.

Pursuing Soul-Nourishing Activities, 5778 / 2018.

Praying to Carry a Retreat Forward, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Pok Rie via Pexels.

Lag B’Omer, 33 Days, Gratitude 5781

Today is thirty-three days, which is four weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5781. הוד שבהוד, Hod ShebeHod, Gratitude within Gratitude. That means we have reached the extremely minor holiday of Lag B’Omer!

Rather than trying to explain Lag B’Omer, let’s sink into the heart of gratitude.

Finding gratitude in a raging pandemic

Perhaps the pandemic seems waning to you, rather than raging. Thirteen months of life turned upside down can make the depth of tragedy occurring in India seem disconnected from the growing availability of vaccinations in the United States. Beyond the current horrors, the existence of COVID-19 in itself makes it far easier to root oneself in cynicism rather than gratitude.

How to stay connected to gratitude? I look at the blooming flowers outside my window. Marvel at the way my kids are growing and their bodies transforming. Watch my dog, anxious for me to join her for snuggles on the couch rather than writing this blog post.

Focus on the splendor of now

At the end of the day, regardless of what is happening in the world, there are sparks of splendor chasing us through each day. When I take the time to pause and appreciate the glory of today, gratitude fills me.

Books for the journey

Previously today…

Creating a dwelling place for the Divine, 5780 / 2020.

Allowing myself to be transformed by Jewish prayer, 5779 / 2019.

Defining my essential prayer, 5778 / 2018.

Yearning for meaning and depth, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Jens Mahnke via Pexels.

Endurance within Gratitude, 32 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty-two days, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5781. נצח שבהוד, Netzach ShebeHod, Eternal Splendor. The pillars of the Temple within me. Endurance within Gratitude.

My day started much earlier than normal. I had a 7:50 a.m. appointment for the second dose of the Moderna vaccine. This means I woke my husband up early on his birthday to ensure I got out of the house on time. And then, I entered the never-ending wait. At first, I did well because I brought my travel siddur, prayer book, and prayed Shacharit. I got through the entire service before entering the building because the line was moving that slowly. Then, I watched as two people behind me got through the registration process faster than me, leading me to the end of the slowest vaccination line in the building. It was so hard for me to focus on gratitude because all I could think about was how much faster I would have been out of the building if I had made it into the other line. It must have taken another thirty minutes to actual get the jab. I barely remembered to say a blessing of gratitude.

Prayer of Gratitude for Goodness

The prayer I chose to say is: Holy One of Blessing, You are the Eternal Ground of Being, Sovereign of the Universe, who is good and does good. Barukh Atah HaShem, Elokeinu Melekh Ha’Olam, ha’tov v’hameitiv.

Jews never pronounce the Tetragrammaton, the four letter name of God. We often look at the word in Hebrew and say A”do”nai, which means My Lord. It is a pale shadow of the breadth of meaning contained in The Name. HaShem replaces the four letter name of God in non-liturgical writing. HaShem means The Name. The root of HaShem is the verb “to be.” It encompasses the idea of “was, is, will be.” Which is why some people translate it as Eternal One, while others say Ground of Being. The essence of being comes from God. This is the closest approximation for an explanation of the God I believe in.

Sleep is the salve for a weary soul

At the end of the day, my inability to stay rooted in gratitude is directly connected to my sleep deprivation. This morning, I realized that the fancy pillows I bought at the beginning of the pandemic have been destroying my sleep — they’re too large and too firm and my body is rejecting them, tensing up, and wrecking havoc.

Prayer for fortitude

Holy One of Blessings, allow me deep sleep. May I enter tomorrow full of gratitude for my many blessings. May my desire to help my children’s journeys outweigh my frustration at their pandemic fatigue and homework resistance.

Previously today…

Pop culture as the entrance to eternal splendor, 5780 / 2020.

Rhythm of Jewish prayer opens eternal splendor, 5779 / 2019.

Connecting to pure holiness, 5778 / 2018.

The holiness of community, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Dan Fador via Pixabay.

Beauty within Gratitude, 31 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty-one days, which is four weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5781. תפארת שבהוד. Tiferet ShebeHod, Beauty within Gratitude. The eve of my partner’s birthday. The eve of the day I receive my second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Mystical appreciation for the splendor of now

Anyone who has watched Outlander or read the books can appreciate the symbolism of a circle of stones with a beautiful sunset. Perhaps we too will slip through time and find our one true love. Or perhaps we will slip into the deeper meaning of this moment, gaining appreciation for the splendor continuously surrounding us.

It is terribly difficult to stay rooted in gratitude. Especially in these strange, uncertain times. Fear, anxiety, and exhaustion haunt my days. While I miss eating meals with friends, going to the movies, seeing brilliant theatre, and praying in-person in community, what I miss most is silence. The long hours of the day alone in my home, sinking into Jewish wisdom. The beautiful splendor of silence.

Of course, I can remind myself that now is also amazing. Watching my boys grow in height and knowledge. Starting to understand the the particulars of their personalities. Accepting that they’re children and I can’t undo the fact that while I was in class, they ate the edges of the birthday cake I baked. (Before frosting and before tomorrow’s birthday.)

Holy wonder for the miracle of today

Most of today will be April 28, 2021 in secular time. Such an incredible day. The birthday of the oldest member of my family. My beshert (soul mate), my Chesed (actual Hebrew name). Throughout our relationship, we have known that Chung-Mau is the lovingkindness to my strength and together, we create beauty and truth.

We also made two amazing humans. Surviving together in grand fashion. Even sometimes indulging in pop culture and junk food. Surrounded by Chung’s incredible creations.

And today I will join Chung in completing my vaccination for COVID-19. Perhaps a bit of the weight on our shoulders will begin to ease as we walk towards full-strength vaccination in two weeks.

Prayer for beautiful gratitude

Holy Source of Life, help me to embrace each moment. Let me see with eyes of gratitude. Allow me the rationality to see the beautiful possibility in every moment.

Books for diversion…

Previously today…

Pandemic reality, Mother’s Day, 5780 / 2020.

The yoke of the Divine holds beautiful splendor, 5779 / 2019.

Prayer uncovers deep truth, 5778 / 2018.

Soulful community creates beautiful truth, 5777 / 2017.

Image by John Nail via Pexels.

Discipline of Gratitude, 30 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty days, which is four weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5781. גבורה שבהוד, Gevurah of Hod, Discipline within Gratitude.

Family pets live within love and gratitude. In most situations, their interactions are expressions of gratitude. To choose a pet is to choose to live with gratitude and service. I choose to appreciate the gift of my pet. I learn from her how to enter relationships with an attitude of gratitude.

Prayer: the gratitude path we stumble towards

Recognizing gratitude as a primary intention within prayer transformed my experience of life. At times, the structure of prayer locks me out. The traditional Jewish service in Hebrew, a language I did not understand. The prescribed length of services, especially morning services, can take three hours (though traditional weekday services are significantly shorter). Nusach, traditional musical modes, dictate how each service sounds. All of these external factors can keep a person from finding meaning in prayer. And I haven’t even mentioned the biggest factor separating progressive Jews from meaningful prayer experiences. The oppressive, anachronistic God as King language dictated by our prayer formula.

Despite all these barriers, Jews are deep spiritual seekers. Many of the earliest (and current) American Buddhist teachers are Jews who did not find mindfulness or deep meaning within Jewish spaces. I appreciate Buddhist philosophy and other paths towards mindfulness, but I have always reached towards Judaism to find my way towards living meaningfully and thinking deeply.

While traditional prayer language chafed at me for decades, the space of Jewish prayer has always resonated with me in a way that other spiritual disciplines do not. Even when I did not understand what I was saying, praying in Hebrew made more sense to me than praying in another language. Actually, in recent years, I had to teach myself how to go deeply into prayer through English words.

Prayer: the conduit for a discipline of gratitude

Judaism offers three services a day and four on holidays. Each services has a clearly proscribed set of prayers, designed to take a person on a journey inward, opening space for Divine flow and transformation. Yet, that flow cannot be found if all of the structure feels like a brick wall. Plus, making time for anything can feel oppressive.

Rather than reprimand myself for not davennen (praying) three times a day, I choose to find a new relationship with prayer. This is my minimum viable product of the discipline of gratitude:

Starting my day by thanking God for the breath that sustains me sets a better tone than immediately grabbing my phone and wandering into social media rabbit holes. Taking time to stretch and appreciate the body that carries me through the day. Thinking through my responsibilities this day as I get dressed and ready. Pausing before I put food in my mouth, to thank the Source of Life, the people who farmed the food, and the person who prepared the food. Ideally, closing each meal with a prayer of gratitude for my satiation. Ending the day with reflection and a prayer to connect myself with the Source of Life.

Prayer for the discipline of gratitude

May I find the discipline of gratitude that opens me to the depths of my being, making space to allow myself to be of service to others. And through this discipline and service, may I feel connected to the Divine flow pulsating within and around us.

Previously today…

Reveling in the splendor of daily life, 5780 / 2020.

The discipline of splendor, 5779 / 2019.

Building a regular practice of gratitude, 5778 / 2018.

Thoughts on splendor and conversion, 5777 / 2017.

Image by StockSnap via Pixabay.

Lovingkindness of Splendor, 29 Days Omer 5781

Today is twenty-nine days, which is four weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5781. חסד שבהוד, Chesed ShebeHod, Lovingkindness of Splendor.

Bridging the chasms between skepticism and belief

I do not attempt to prove God’s existence. I lived in the world of disbelief long enough to understand that written words cannot bridge the chasm between skepticism and belief. Yet, the doubt edges into the sides of my writing.

I know most progressive Jews do not spend much time thinking about God. And I wonder whether these posts find resonance with anyone who is skeptical. Or if people turn away because there are much more interesting things to read / listen to / watch.

Splendor, Gratitude, Humility

Most modern writers speak about humility as the outward manifestation of Hod. The root, which means splendor / majesty, is also used to form the verb give thanks (hodu) and the noun gratitude (hoda’ah). From there, people pivot to humility: the contraction of the ego needed in order to authentically express gratitude.

The other aspect of Hod is that alongside Netzach, they form the pillars of the Temple. So, this can also be a week of defining how to create splendor in physical reality: building space that is both centering and awe-inspiring to allow the soul to emerge and soar.

Lovingkindness, Divine Flow within Splendor

Lovingkindness, the tender consideration and support of the Divine as we journey through our mortal coils. Perhaps the Source of Life is not tangible in your life. The touch of flow is the hand of lovingkindness. Creative synergy, deep intellectual resonance, beautiful conversations causing time to expand: these are examples of the flow of Divine energy within and between us.

Creating space for Divine flow, making ourselves and our environments open to this vital creative energy is the work of the 29th day of the Omer. Chesed ShebeNetzach. Lovingkindness within Splendor.

Previously today…

Diving Light enters where we let it, 5780 / 2020.

Receive the flow from the wellsprings of life, 5779 / 2019.

Embracing gratitude and praise, 5778 / 2018.

Commit to supporting someone else, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Pexels via Pixabay.

Indwelling of Eternity, 28 Days of Omer 5781

Today is twenty-eight days, which is four weeks of the Omer, in the year 5781. שחינה שבנצח. Shechinah ShebeNetzach. Indwelling of Eternity. Is it possible to touch the Eternal? Is my Will a conduit of Divine Endurance?

Becoming a God Knower

One of the reasons I continue meditating into the Omer publicly is that these Sephirot are the most concrete definition of God that resonates with me. I was highly skeptical of Kabbalistic theology fifteen years ago. I grew up firmly rooted in rational, scientific intelligence. No natural compartment in me existed to file mystical knowledge. I try hard to remember back to my initial skepticism when explaining my convictions today. I recognize that some people will never choose a mystical path to God knowledge. Some people cling to agnosticism as a badge of honor, a sign of intellect. Some people root themselves in atheism, secure within a humanist understanding of human flourishing.

Counting the Omer is how I sunk into the reality of the Divine and the importance of continuing Jewish wisdom. Our concepts and rituals are deeply soul nourishing. My soul expands with every revolution around the sun because I track time by the moon and hold myself accountable to the changing seasons.

Sephira: Emanation, Sephirot: Emanations

A sephira means “number,” and in Jewish mysticism it reflects an aspect of the Divine that can be understood by humans. Jewish mysticism built on neo-Platonism in developing an emanatory system of Ideals that lead towards the Infinite / Unknowable Essence of God. Through the ten sephirot (-ot is a common plural ending for Hebrew words), we reach towards the Eternal. While the language is multi-vocal, it is not meant to proclaim multiple divines. Rather, it is a way of concretizing the multi-faceted nature of divinity.

There are ten sephirot. The top three are the hardest to fully know, closest to the knowing beyond language. They live purely in the realm of Ideals and are not part of the counting of the Omer.

The Lower Seven

The Omer countes the lower seven sephirot. These emanations connect most closely with humans. They exist as triads. Shekhinah stands alone in exile. Chesed begins a triad. He exists in tension with his opposite, Gevurah. Tiferet synthesizes their energy. In the androcentric, pre-modern understanding of creation, life begins on the male side (Chesed) and its opposite, the receptacle, the feminine, can also be a conduit of evil. The Other Side, the Sitra Achra, enters the world through Gevurah, the Strength that lives in tension with Chesed, Lovingkindness.

Sephirot tree mage from WalkingKabbalah website via a Google search

Another confusing thing about the sephirot is that some of them go by multiple names, and there are multiple ways to describe a sephira in English. Again, this is because the Infinite is beyond the stricture of language.

Also, I choose to learn Jewish wisdom without apologetics. I am not going to try to explain away misogyny, although I do have sympathy for the triumphalism inherent in many of our texts. After all, for the majority of our history, Jews have been a nation without political sovereignty, a minority used by authorities to carry out unsavory elements of government (like tax collection), and cast out / slaughtered of when our power grew too deep (especially when sovereigns could not afford to pay back their loans).

With all this in mind, my meditations on the Omer count attempt to connect the eternal essence of these sephirot with my lived experience.

Ascending towards spiritual liberation

The Omer count is a way to count time from the beginning of the barley harvest (at Passover) to the beginning of the wheat harvest (at Shavuot / Pentecost) in ancient Israel. The commandment to count 49 days between Passover and on the 50th day declare Shavuot (literally Weeks) is Biblical. Overlaying iterations of the sephirot is a Kabbalistic invention. It is a meditative path towards shedding some of the spiritual shmutz keeping us from understanding Divine truth.

We physically leave Egypt on Passover. It takes spiritual fortitude to become vessels worthy of Divine revelation. The rabbis declared Shavuot as the day the Ten Commandments were revealed to the Israelites. Originally, it was just a harvest festival. So now, we walk 49 steps towards deeper understanding of the Divine, deeper insight into our soul’s experience, to create space for deeper revelation of Divine truth on Shavuot.

Indwelling of the Eternal

The Jewish people and Shekhinah connect as dual manifestations of Divine exile. When we make space for the Indwelling Presence, the Immanent aspect of the Divine, we help heal the core brokenness within ourselves and within the world. This Indwelling can hold space for the Eternal.

When I align my Will with the highest ideals within me, my soul flourishes. The space for the Divine within material reality grows. The pure Indwelling of Endurance allows the Mother of Being to expand, spreading Goodness and Deep Meaning throughout the world.

Guideposts for this journey

Previously today…

God-conscious Theatre Reflects the Indwelling of Eternity, 5780 / 2020.

Shabbat and The Way hold space for the Indwelling of Eternity, 5779 / 2019.

The Truth I am Discovering, 5778 / 2018.

Physical and Spiritual Life Cycles, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Skitterphoto via Pixabay.