Field of Unrealized Potential

I so love this time of year. The feelings of possibility, newness, and change that come with the fall have always made it my favorite season. It was only really after I started learning more in Israel that I came to appreciate the cycle of the Jewish calendar and how it so accurately reflects and prompts our inherent needs for growth.

We have entered the Hebrew month of Elul and are approaching the High Holidays – The Days of Awe. I wanted to share a bit of Torah around this time of year from a great teacher of mine, Rabbi Mike Feuer, in hopes that his words and explanation of the potential we can tap into will inspire you as well. This is what I’m thinking about these days.


“But there is another type of field, the quantum field of unrealized potentials, of possible futures waiting to be. It offers freedom of self, identity unbounded by the personality I have constructed to cope with the past and serve me in the present. How is it possible to leave my failings in last year if I don’t know what I look like in the next?

This is our national problem and our personal problem – we don’t know who we want to be. We can’t defeat Hamas because we don’t know what victory looks like, we can’t build a just society because we don’t imagine justice. And I can’t let go of my flaws because I can’t imagine my healthy spiritual self.

Even if we can imagine it, we are afraid to believe in our possible future. We are stuck in a “Newtonian” conception of the universe, and of our lives, which undermines our ability to change. We think we are playing out the inexorable results of initial starting conditions, that what is flows only from what was, and wholly defines what will be.

To enter into Elul is to step out into the field of dreams. To imagine redemption, envision spiritual wholeness, evoke national realization. To touch the prophet within, awakening the purity of connection to Gd and self unleashed at Sinai.”

(Read more here)


 

What would you reach for if you weren’t afraid of failure? Can you envision your highest self?

Milk and Honey

Today is just like any other day, but different. It is one of those days where the first rays of sun make their way into my morning dreams, warming my pillow and inviting me to come greet the day. I wake up to my sweet baby’s curious face almost pressed up against mine and instead of closing my eyes and making a silent prayer that he will roll over and return to sleep, I am pulled into wakefulness, meeting the early sun’s invitation with curiosity and wonder.

We take our time getting out of bed, my newly crawling and standing boy and I. These quiet moments are becoming fewer and more far between as he excitedly learns to explore his new capabilities and more of the world around him. I am savoring this one like the sweetest sip at the bottom of the mug.

In a departure from the norm, I don’t reach for my phone to distract myself out of this usually uncomfortable, newly awakened state, passively allowing the notifications to fill me in on what I’ve missed since logging off. I wonder if I can sustain this state of gentle intrigue and curiosity a little longer, stretch it throughout the day into the moments where I need that softness, when it’s seemingly all curled up and retreated and all I am left with is the harsh realization of daily struggles and suffering near and far. Is it this easy to change the habit of comfortable despair – making simple choices that change the fabric of our days?

I sing to my sweet baby boy quietly, making my way through morning prayers, reminders of our place in this great universe and all that holds us. He laughs and pokes at my face. We cuddle and sing and dreamily look up and out the window at the quickly lightening sky, wondering what other sparks of refreshing newness the day will bring.

I wonder, perhaps naively, if we can somehow influence our surroundings by making these shifts internally. As I encounter the paradox of living in this holy land fraught with so much suffering and conflict, I strive to remain gentle. If I allow myself to open too much, I fear I will simply harden into another stone in the foundation of this impossible conflict and growing distrust.

The cultivated softness of the morning stays with us as we go farther into this new day. It is not in essence an easier or objectively more pleasant day – in fact my tiny companion is quite miserable with teething pains only soothed by cold pieces of watermelon and clinging onto me as go about our daily chores. Another day made up of similar events, of which we’ve had many, may leave me feeling irritated early on, seeking distraction or longing for nap times when I have a few moments to myself. Inspired by our shared early morning wonder, however, I stay with him, with the crying and clinging and vow, even if just for today, to approach even the smallest of harsh realities with gentleness, presence, and soft touches.

Soften into Freedom

Soften

Photo by James Chororos

A Yogic Experience for Rosh Chodesh Nissan

“The image is a warm spring wind steadily dissolving winter ice. This is meant to teach us that it is through perseverance and gentleness – rather than aggressiveness – that we overcome what is hard.”
– Brian Browne Walker

As you begin your practice, come into a comfortable seated position. Bring awareness to your breath and let your mind begin to settle. Start to take deep, full, cleansing breaths. Take note of any areas of tension or discomfort in your body, without judgement or resistance. As you start to feel more connected to this posture and your body in the present moment, bring the image mentioned above into your mind. Connect to your breath and feel it moving within and throughout your body. Allow the breath to be the warm, spring wind, moving to the areas of tension, melting them away. As you try to soften in that place, visualize the rough chips of ice melting away. Breathe. Connect. Soften. Repeat in whatever yoga poses you come into throughout your practice.

———

I love this image, especially for Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the beginning of the Jewish calendar. True, we have more than one new year. While Rosh Hashana, in the month of Tishrei, is thought of as the anniversary of creation of the world, Nissan, most noted for the holiday of Pesach (Passover), is thought of as the anniversary for the creation of Jewish people. Pesach commemorates the Jew’s being taken out of slavery in Mitzrayim (coming from the word for narrow, meaning Egypt) in order to become G!d’s nation. Rightly so, the month of Nisan is full of references to feelings of breaking out of our enslavements – both external and internal. We don’t eat any chametz (leavened bread products) during this time as we associate them with ego, arrogance, and pride – the ways of Mitzrayim from which we’ve broken free. We have a Pesach Seder in order to retell and re-experience our story with the younger generations and in order to experience the transition from slavery to freedom within ourselves each year. We eat matzah both at the seder and throughout the week in order to cleanse ourselves of this negative, prideful ego and, in turn, move toward freeing ourselves.

I could go on for hours about all of the depth and richness of this holiday and time of year. It struck me in a new way today, however, when I was thinking about this warmth melting coldness, the idea of softening in relation to Nisan and Pesach. So often in life, especially in my life in Israel, I feel the opposite reaction happening in and around me – hardening, strengthening through agression, jagged perseverance. I wonder how much more I could progress and persevere in the long run if, instead, I tried to transform that built up agression into softening. Move from slavery into freedom by allowing the ice to melt away to reveal the true strength within. After all, it was enduring inner-strength and a relationship to that which is true that got us out of Egypt.

This idea refreshed me as I walked through the park today with the first warm winds of the season guiding me through the olive trees, melting away any residual winter harshness I was still carrying with me. As the beginnings of this idea continue to steep in my mind, I will leave you for now with thoughts of what it means to soften, release, and free ourselves. What does freedom mean to you? How can we incorporate softening and releasing both on and off the mat? What does it mean to achieve strength and freedom through softening?

May all the physical labor of preparing for Pesach and ridding our homes and ourselves of chametz allow us to leave our modern-day Mitzrayims and connect to our purest, most essential selves. May the breaking down of barriers and experiencing oneness this month leave us humble and whole.

Returning, again.

This is my first attempt to publish a blog posting since the beginning of my journeys in Israel in 2011. (For some history, check out these old postings: http://jennagoestoisrael.blogspot.co.il). I came to this land oblivious as to what was ahead of me. A wide-eyed, single girl traveling the world before settling into the coming five years of doctoral work. The world, this land, was my oyster…or should I say matzah ball? My mind, my heart, my eyes were open. I was completely ready to absorb it all, have a traveling experience, and then go right back to my neat and orderly planned out life. So what happened? Everything.

I fell in love, for starters. With the land of Israel, the history of the Jewish people, my own heritage and rich tradition, my (at the time) new boyfriend and now husband. Within a little over a year, I came to this country with no plans, fell deeply into seminary learning ancient Jewish wisdom, met an incredible man with a similar journey, decided to uproot my life in America and settle in Israel, and then had a fairy tale, outdoor, organic spring wedding in the hills of Jerusalem (Thanks Yehoshua Sigala for the amazing pictures!) Today, we are both working, learning, and planting our roots here, in The Holy Land. Happily ever after, right?

Almost. When I look back at the whirlwind of my last few months, I am overcome with more emotions than I know how to verbalize. Gratitude, first of all. Awe, excitement, a longing for the past – the moments before waking that now seem much simpler, the satisfaction of listening to my intuition through adversity, missing my family. Today I am faced with challenges in every-day tasks I never thought I’d find difficult. Striving to maintain my connections to family and friends across the ocean while becoming a part of and embracing society here. I am an immigrant. I am learning more and more Hebrew every day yet it never seems to be enough. I am building a life from scratch, rather than continuing on in a life of privilege. I am humbled by this process every day (some days more gracefully than others). I am a constant student (and now teacher) of yoga – a practice that keeps me grounded and lets me fly. I am an orthodox, married woman. A homemaker. An administrative assistant for an organization doing incredible work in the field of Jewish Personal Growth (shameless promotion for The Shalev Center – check them out). A happy baker and improving cook. I am choosing to connect to and plant new roots in Israel because I believe in this land, in our people’s dream of coming back to our land. Despite all I have seemingly given up in my American life, I am comforted and reinvigorated by the idea that we are investing in our children and grandchildren in hopes that if they choose to follow a similar lifestyle, connecting to Torah and this holy land, it will not be so alien and difficult for them. A jarring, jumble of translations that fall short, foreign land and new culture. This will be their home base, Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) will be their family, no matter where they choose to go.

So this is my journey through Israel, Yoga, Judaism, making Aliyah, marriage and hopefully someday kids that I am inviting you to witness. The concept in yoga that I have come to love so much and relate to in my daily life is what has inspired this blog. Just as when we root deeply into the ground, into the earth, we are able to rise to much greater heights than we even thought possible, I hope that in my return to this land (in hebrew called making “aliyah” – literally “going up”) I am able to raise up my life and the life of my future children to new heights – both spiritually and physically. No matter what each of our life’s journey holds in store, may this concept always help to take you to exactly where you are supposed to be.