When I saw this “canned” photo at the top of my newly created blog site, I knew, immediately, that it would have to stay, regardless of how many photos I would take to populate subsequent posts. It speaks so vividly to me ~ the tiny speck of womanhood against the immense spectacle of nature’s glory, grounded and balanced and reaching up in tree pose. In just one photo, I saw nearly all of my primary sources of well-being:
- AWARENESS of the AWEsome glory of our Earth-mother,
- GROUNDING myself through yoga and other somatic awareness practices (especially Warrior 2 – strength with heart-openness, and Tree pose)
- RITUAL, which (as I describe on my website) “allows us to gather and raise up the threads we weave, honor the sacred transitions within our life’s unfolding, as we invite others to bear witness. Both a process and a vista along life’s journey, ritual provides a lens through which to view and unite past, present, and future with magnificent clarity.”
- JOURNEY – treating life as a process (rather than a product) we participate in daily as we work to enhance our ability to be our best, most authentic and evolved selves within the interconnectedness of all and in partnership with the Source of Blessing.
The photo also clearly connects to two cards from two different decks of spiritual energy, which I drew forth to help me prepare for two+ months in Israel ~ my first visit to the Land that is so foundational to my People, my wisdom tradition, and my calling. The cards read “Balance” and “Flexibility” and drawing them as new “dance partners” from separate energies to mingle with my own felt both magical and b’shert (meant to be).
The first deck, Kavvanah Cards, was created by Betsy Teutsch, a talented Judaic artist and author, community organizer and eco-activist. The second, The Original Angel Cards (Tyler/Drake), was a recent gift from my mashpi’ah (spiritual guide), Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel, an extraordinarily gifted, deeply soulful rabbi, poet, mystic, musician, song-writer, artist and spiritual midwife.
I take the time to share the source of these cards and how they came to my hands because I am perpetually aware of and profoundly grateful for the encouragement and support I’ve received from women who are a decade or more older than I. There are countless women upon whose metaphorical shoulders I stand, and I am deeply appreciative of all they have done to pave the way for those of us who follow them, chronologically.
And then, there is a subcategory of these women who have done so much more for me and others. They have opened doors (and windows and skylights) without hesitation or expectation of anything in return. Women whose courage and composure and confidence and compassion have drawn me forth to pursue my soul’s calling, have welcomed me with open arms and pushed me forward. They saw in me something they were willing to nourish and nurture, even in the face of my self-doubt. Women who clearly and honestly identified beauty and strength in me, reflecting it back to me with affection and enthusiasm to embolden me to take my place among them.
It is to these extraordinary inspirational and kind women of valor ~ my guides, teachers, colleagues, and friends, that I dedicate this blog which I intend to serve as a way of capturing my time in Israel and throughout the coming year leading toward my smicha (ordination). And in their honor, I intend to focus my writing over the next few months on my somatic and spiritual experience of my journey rather than creating a travel journal, though it will likely be a combination of both.
Today, I landed in Israel, Ben Gurion airport, with light in my heart and heaviness in my body. Nearly 10 hours on a plane and 18 hours of travel combined with poor sleep patterns in the weeks leading up to this trip are being felt by my body – neck and back absorbing the brunt, as always. As I lifted my bag out of the overhead compartment, I smiled at the young man watching me struggle. “I know I don’t look quite 90, but my back often tells me otherwise.” He smiled but didn’t offer to help and I didn’t ask.
I was prepared for the man davenen (praying) behind me (my row was the last in my section) on the plane, but was struck with such delight by the mezuzot on the doors in the airport – even the sliding doors had a mezuzah affixed to the doorframe. And in the casual restaurant where I ventured for delicious falafel, salad, hummus, tihini, and pickled veggies on pita (akin to our local Chipotle or Piada) there was not only a mezuzah on the doorpost, but a small sink in the corner equipped with a hand-washing vessel (for the ritual pre-meal washing) and just as some laughed and talked and viewed cell phones after eating, other’s “bentched” (said grace after meal) quietly in the restaurant before moving on with their evening.
I am grateful for my good sense of direction which allows me to find my way back “home” without issue. I smile as I turn onto Zalman on my way to Hess. Of course this is Rabbi Schneur Zalman, not our beloved Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi, of blessed memory, but I see it as no coincidence that Reb Zalman guides my way home. For a moment I worry, in the dark, that I have made a mistake and am not on Hess. There was no visible street sign when I turned. But, it is garbage night in this part of Tel Aviv and just as I start to doubt myself, I notice that each garbage can is marked הס – Hess … I am home.