Friday, December 19, 2014

A Thoughtful Dance

Every day one must dance. Even if only in thought.
-Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810)

The body moves us and we are moved on multiple levels towards our joyful ascent.

Sometimes, the very thought of being in holy movement, lifts us out of the chair of despair into seraphic speculation.

The body works in seamless attunement with our spirits. If every emotion has a physiological response, can we change how we feel if we alter our physical progression?

It is easy to dance and sing, smile and laugh, when we are content.

What takes practice, is dancing and singing, smiling and laughing when we are despondent.

Rabbi Nachman encourages the dance practice as a form of therapeutic resistance to sadness and suffering.

Everyone can dance, if only in thought.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Backward Glance

Observing your life with perspective is unnatural.

We continue cruising constantly.

Until we stop.

We catch a rear-view snapshot of a life running behind us.

An unexpected compliment that highlighted your work.

A friendly stranger who who spoke a truth you needed to know.

An emotion reverberated through your body you didn’t know existed.

And you stopped.

You caught up with your shadow.

The spotlights showered your accomplishments.

You were blinded by the brightness of your backward glance.

A life well-observed is a life well-lived.

He said, she said.


Look behind you.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Craving Aloneness

As human beings, we crave being alone.

We carry an entire world inside our own experience. When we are inside ourselves, we possess an opportunity to meditate on the interconnection of soul, God and the Divine without critique from others.

A story told by the Baal Shem Tov about his childhood includes this passage: "I was drawn to walk the fields and the great, deep forest near our village. Often I would spend the night in the field or forest. One morning in the forest I heard a human voice: a Jew in tallit and tefillin, praying with a passion I had never heard. 'Aren't you afraid to be alone in the forest?' the man asked me. I answered him: 'I like the field and the forest, because there are no people . . ."

Ah, to be alone. To pray listening only to my own voice. To concentrate fiercely on all that is uniquely my own. To revel in the peace and possibility of an answer or an insight from Nature’s Universe.

And yet the reverse is also true. To be alone is disquieting. Loneliness and aloneness can be fraught with physical and emotional dangers. Difficult thoughts may discover us.

Chasing our distractions can cause an addiction of discomfort. Instead of an occasion for the Capital Connection, we form deleterious detachments and tentative traumas.

As human beings, we crave our interiority time. The silence within calls us to this open forest of mindful fertility. Feel it, fear it, face it, infuse it into your daily practice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gratitude Has a Price

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey

It is a spiritual fact.

Gratitude has a price.

The price is abundance.

The more you expand your thoughts, energy and desires around the art of gratitude, the more you enhance your life’s trajectory towards more of everything.

Thanksgiving is a time to accentuate the positive in your life around the table of your communal feast.

Abundance flows on Thanksgiving.

Acknowledge it. Expand it. Embrace your life. And, if necessary, consume it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Calling Ahead

We find our life’s calling and it aligns us with our purpose for living and staying alive.

Then, unexpectedly but smoothly, another call sits side-by-side and asks us to move over.

Do we accept this new direction immediately? Do we resist indefinitely? Ask for more time? Embrace it as it follows us around? Do we begin again to follow our passion only to find that it has changed or that we have changed?

Callings are like horse whispers.  You need to distinguish one from the other in a gentle and patient manner. If you keep hearing the same sounds and the same admonitions, take time to discern the calling ahead. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Great-Grandmother's Rite of Passage

While my daughter Elisheva was laboring at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., with her first child, my 90 year-old mother was laboring at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, Penn., struggling with a life-threatening illness.

My mother, Bubbe Jeanette, was semi-conscious for a week.

Every hour, I reminded her of the immediate future.

“Elisheva is due soon. Do you think it will be a girl or a boy?”

Does one soul die before another one is born? Am I waiting for a new life or anticipating losing one? Would this emerging small soul support the failing body of her maternal great-grandmother?

I waited. I held onto to my mother’s hand for her dear life. Her slow rhythmic breathing chased my inhalations of hope.

As the sun was setting on Wednesday, she awoke suddenly and whispered, “Has Elisheva had her baby yet?”

“No, mom, not yet.”

“Then go. I will be okay. Go be with Elisheva.”

Ilana Ende Funk was born while I was driving back to my home in Washington, D.C., on July 3, 2002.

My mother lived another five years and witnessed the births of her four great-grandchildren.

Last weekend, Ilana became a Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12(+) and took her place as an adult in the Jewish tradition.

Twelve years ago, Ilana and her maternal great-grandmother shared a different rite of passage: the sacred passage from life to life. L’chayim!

Shabbat shalom,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Vowing to Unvow

"A sacred vow, after all is an effort to unify thought and action, taking the form of the statement, 'I will do what I believe.' And when such an effort fails, the soul finds itself in some degree of darkness." - Rabbi Benjamin Weiner

A vow is a sacred promise that binds our speech, thought and action.

When the vow is broken, the promise unkept, the actions not taken as proscribed -- downheartedness, distress and depression pervades our soul-being.

Living in integrity means doing what you say you will do so that your actions define and mirror your spoken words.

The making of a vow can be a foolish act of instinct or a deep commitment to a sacred purpose. Can we make that differentiation when propelled towards the promise?

My Aunt Faye made a vow in haste and in crisis. It became her sacred purpose.

Her baby son, Evan, was very ill. He hovered between life and death for days.

In an instant, she declared to God: “If you let my son live, I will obey the laws of the Sabbath and the laws of Kashrut.”

Baby Evan lived, and Aunt Faye kept her promise to God in exchange for a healthy son.

Her vow was an offering of gratitude to the Highest Vow-Keeper. She placed her belief side by side with her actions. She never veered from her actions. She binded herself to the spoken vow of her youth.

When the family story was revealed to me as a young girl, my respect for Aunt Faye was engraved on my heart. It was never a sacrifice from which she wanted to unvow. Rather, it became her way of life. The vow became a testament to her integrity not just to the God she called upon in desperation and grief, but it became a measurement of the way she valued her life and her relationships.

Have I ever made a vow that would last a lifetime?

Have you?