The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

New Year Of The Trees

Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar — celebrated this year on Thursday, February 8, 2012 — is the day that marks the beginning of a “New Year for Trees.” Some people refer to it as “Jewish Arbor Day”. Trees are valued in the Jewish tradition.  To honor a milestone or memorialize someone who has died, trees are often planted in Israel in that person’s name. The Tree of Life (Etz haChayim in Hebrew) is a potent symbol in Kabbalistic Judaism.

 

In anticipation of the holiday, at Pebble Hill Church; an interfaith community in Doylestown, PA of which I have been a part since 1984, my friend Gary Schoenberg led the service entitled Cultivating A Miracle Mindset. Gary guided us, through story and song, ritual and sharing as we learned about Tu B’Shevat.  We enjoyed various fruits for the purpose of  honoring  the Four Worlds. He incorporated concepts from A Tu b’shevat Seder created by The Jewish Women’s Center of Pittsburgh, Inc.

1.  Assiyah, or Action, the physical world around us. 
2.
Yetzirah
, or Formation, the world of feelings and emotions. 
3. B’riyah
, or Creation, the world of knowing, and the mind. 
4. 
Atzilut, or Emanation, the world of spirituality.

 

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    For Assiyah (earth, action), we eat nuts and fruits with a tough skin to remind us of the protection the earth gives.

  • Through this act we acknowledge that

  • we need protection in life, both physical and emotional.
  • For Yetzirah (heart, formation), we eat fruits with a tough inner core.

  •  

  • Through this act we acknowledge the need to fortify our hearts. With a

  • strong heart and a pure vision, our lives grow richer and deeper.

    Fruits of this group, which are edible on the outside with a hard inner pit include: dates, olives, cherries, peaches and avocados.

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  • For B’riyah (air, mind, creation), we eat fruits that are completely edible. In this world, where God’s protection is close at hand, we can let go of all barriers and try on freedom. As co-creators with God, each of our thoughts becomes action.

    Fruits in this group include: figs, carob, grapes, berries, apples and pears.

     

  • Rabbi Chiyya ben Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: “Whoever keeps the fig tree shall eat of its fruit. The fruit of the fig tree does not ripen all at once. The more one searches, the more figs one finds in it. So it is with the words of the Torah. The more one studies them, the more relish one finds in them.”

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  • The world of Atzilut (fire, spirit) is the ethereal world of emanation. It is a purely spiritual idea, and thus, we do not eat any fruit for this world.

    There’s a fire alive, within every living cell of every being. 

  • The carbons we eat burn in the presence of 
    the oxygen we breath, giving us the energy to be.
     
    This spark of light is our connection to the Divine.

     

  • Just as the natural world goes through changes to achieve its full potential, we also need to change so that we can be free to grow. In doing so, we will become strong like healthy trees, with solid roots in the ground and our arms open to the love that is all around us.

  •  

    As I sat, surrounded by kindred spirits, engaged in miracle making of their own; after all, each breath, each heartbeat is a miracle, I wondered what transformation was taking place within me that I might not even be aware of at that moment.  What seeds were being planted with each thought that would someday come to fruition?   Were there areas in my life in which I needed to develop a tough inner core to sustain the sweet fruit on the outside?   Can I be truly available to whatever life brings and to the people I encounter, as the fruits described above that are completely edible? And can I fully trust that which I can not always see, hear, feel and touch, knowing that creation is always happening and ever evolving?

     

    From an environmental perspective, I invite you to consider how you and I and all life are intertwined, like the vines and leaves that blossom and grow and our shared consciousness can help to sustain our beautiful planet.

     

    Lo Yisa Goy by Libana

     

    Public Domain (Isaiah 2:4)

    Lo yisa goy el goy cherev
    V’lo yilm’ du od milchama! (4x)

    And every (one) man ‘neath
    his vine and figtree
    Shall live in peace and unafraid. (2x)
    And into plowshares turn their swords,
    Nations shall learn war no more! (2x)

     

    http://youtu.be/cnHhy6aQJXQ

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  • Welcome Wagon

    When my Mom died back in November, I had her mail forwarded to my address so that I could continue to handle her affairs.  Envelopes began trickling Northward from her former home in Florida to mine here in Pennsylvania. Last week a bulkier package arrived that many of you have seen if ever you have moved from one community to another. It included info and coupons for local services. The words that danced upon it were Welcome Wagon; the purpose of which is to help folks feel at at home in their new digs. 

    It set me to wondering whether there is a Celestial Welcome Wagon when we depart this home for our new HOME wherever it is.  I hear tell from those who have had near death experiences and returned to share their experiences, that they were greeted by loved ones who showed them around and helped them (albeit briefly) adust to their arrival. I have heard descriptions of what things are like ‘on the other side’. (I use quotation marks, since I am relating only what I have heard, read or seen in movies)

    I would like to think that loved ones come to the stepping off point to hold out open arms and heart. In one of my favorite movies, called “Made In Heaven”, the character Mike Shea played by Timothy Hutton is greeted upon his death by his Aunt Lisa played by Maureen Stapleton.  He lands in her apartment that she has created in her own mind, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. In life, she had wanted to be a painter, so that was the reality she envisioned for herself. She encouraged Mike to visualize what he wanted and where he chose to go and then ta-da! He was there as well.

    In this moment, I ask those of you who may have had near death experiences  (NDE) to feel free to share your time and memories of what you encountered.  What was your welcome to heaven like?

     

    A glimpse of Heaven

    http://youtu.be/pH_JiuRYdgc

     

    Thriver

    I met Janet Berkowitz back in the mid 1980′s through our mutual friend; author and speaker Alan Cohen. A group of us had been invited to her home to watch the classic Franco Zeffirelli film Brother Sun, Sister Moon. I was drawn to her laughter and welcoming presence. What I didn’t know at the time, was that facade hid a frightening secret. For much of her life, Janet faced sometimes paralyzing depression that in the interceding years would have her hospitalized on numerous occasions and send her plummeting into addiction in an effort to manage her symptoms. By the grace of God and through deep personal practice, Janet has been clean and sober since 1987. What I admire most about this amazing woman is that she is much more than a survivor. She is a thriver who has taken her own lessons and turned them into workshops and performance pieces that she, along with her husband, Phil Garber, offers through their organization called Creative Communication Builders.

    How do you live your bliss?

    Lately, it’s been my bliss to be with people and share open dialogue with them when they are ready to be vulnerable.

    How did you become a mime and performance artist?

    I was performing in shows in high school. I’d caught the bug from my mother who’d studied acting and did local theater. I became a mime, in 11th grade, when I quickly needed an idea for a class project, which I’d fashionably left to the last minute. I had read an article in Smithsonian Magazine about mime becoming popular in the U.S. I created a Charlie Chaplin type of character based on the pictures in that article. My mother would direct my self-designed skits. Then I started seeing Marcel Marceau (world famous mime) when he toured America and I mimicked his work. Eventually my own ideas for skits came through.

    I know that A Course In Miracles has been a pivotal part of your life. How do you feel it guides you?


    I have been keeping it very simple with A Course In Miracles these days: constantly checking to see if what I’m up to is love or fear.

    You have the ability to take the devastating subject of suicide and transform it into something profound and perhaps even lifesaving for others. How did that come to be?


    My work in the field of suicide awareness and prevention came strictly out of desperation. I called all over the country and could find only one group that supported people who were experiencing suicidal ideation or behavior: Suicide Anonymous, unfortunately only in Tennessee. I kept hearing God’s voice saying “Start your own groups.” It was the closest thing to His guidance that I’d heard in the many years since suffering with crippling depression. I started a Suicide Anonymous meeting in N.J. and co-designed a workshop addressing the topic using the arts.

    What keeps you going when you face the challenges of your own mental health experiences?

    What keeps me going when faced with challenges is to keep busy, especially with art projects….mostly with ones I give as gifts.

    What would you suggest for others when they are feeling despair?

    When people are feeling despair I suggest they immediately reach out of themselves and relate to someone else: first by phone, then in person. Get to some sort of meeting. If no other 12 step group works there’s Emotions Anonymous.

    Do you have a favorite performance piece?

    My most favorite recent performance piece is a dance collage, where I dance to all kinds of different snippets of music (everything from the Monkees to ACDC). I do it just for fun!  But I guess my all time fave is ‘Global Unity’, in which I’m reaching out to all kinds of different people in need of help and in the end learning to love myself.


    www.creativecommunicationbuilders.com


    http://youtu.be/_nAM1GU_Ps4 is a video of Phil and Janet performing Dance Collage at Phil’s recent birthday party.

    God Is In

    Eternally ageless, singer songwriter, repercussionist whose music comes from his heart, voice and found objects, Billy Jonas offers his take on all the ways and places God exists. I first heard his music on WXPN 88.5 in Philadelphia .This song resonated so strongly with my perception of the Divine that was shaped by my Jewish upbringing  which was flavored by the teachings of other faiths and cultures to which I was exposed. Since I say that love is my religion and God is too big to put in a box, this expresses it better than I could.

     

    God Is In

     

    God is in the child’s eyes, see them wide, wondrous, wise – God is in the rain and snow, and each snowflake: this we know – God is in the trees and air; the rocks, the birds, the bees, the bears – God is in the clouds above; God is in each act of love – God is in the oceans deep, some say God goes there to sleep – God is in the mountains high, whistling a lullaby – God is in the darkest woods, God is in your neighborhood – God is in a place that’s near; sometimes it’s just not so clear – God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in

    God is in your strangest pleasure; some say God is into leather – God is into body piercing; in your nipple, lip, and nose ring – God is in your new tattoo, in your scars and birthmarks too – God is in your brand new nose in your control top pantyhose – God is in the latest fad, except for bungy jumping — thats dangerous and bad – God is in your cellular phone, God will not leave you alone – God is in the internet, wondering why you’re not there yet – God is in Vogue, and Spin, and Rolling Stone cuz God is IN! God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in

    God is in the Christian house; bread and wine and holy cross – God is in the Jewish home; shalom chaverim, shalom – God is in the Muslim, Allah hu akbar salaam – God is in the Hindu way, jai bagwan! namaste – God is in those dancing Pagans, in each drop of perspiration – God is in the Wicken coven; twelve plus one — a perfect dozen! – God is in the Druid’s song, that’s why they go on so long – God is in the Buddhist’s chair saying “don’t just do something — sit there!” – God is in the Vatican; God goes there for vacation – God is in the Quaker meeting, sleeping ’til they start the singing – God is in your guru; how do you spell that? “Gee, you – are – you” – God is in the atheist, saying “yeah, I don’t exist” – God is in the flowing Tao, then and now and now and now – God is in the Rastaman; I and I and on and on – God is in the Moonie wedding; who gets who — begin the betting – God is in the Hare Krishna, rub their heads and make a wish now – God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in

    God is in your bank account, sometimes juggling the amount – God is in your ATM, counting bills and stacking them – God is in your college fund, laughing cuz it’s gone gone gone – God is in your IRA, adding interest every day – God is in your pocket change, your job is giving it to strangers – God is in the beggar’s cup; sometimes God just fills it up – God is in the empty hand, spent it all on cheap Almaden; – God was in the S & L’s but left, that’s why they went to hell – God is in the Wal-Mart; greets you with a shopping cart – God is in your old jalopy, makes it go when it should not be – God is in the Greyhound bus, sitting in back, watching us – God is in ‘tourist class,’ on a frequent flyer pass – God is in the pilot light; dancing through the night – God is in the radio, Wolfman Jack told me so – God is in the microwave, unless you try to use something metal — then the microwave is the devil; also don’t microwave with plastic wrap cuz it forms molecular bonds with your food and turns your intestines into Tupperware – God is in your Tupperware, but not the lids so buy some spares – God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in …. God is in

    God is in the ozone layer; holier and holier – God is in the atom bomb, or at least the atom bomber’s mom – God is in Chechnya, Sobrenica, Slovenica, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovia, Montana, Oklahoma – God is incredulous at all the stuff we do to us – God is inspired by those who fly and those who try – God is insatiable so sing and dance way past full – God is in you and me, someday God will help us see that – God is in love with love so live and love and that’s enough – God is inside of you and all you don’t and all you do – God is in your greatest doubt, the jury’s out, the doctor’s out, but – God is in, God is in, God is in your darkest sin, and out and in, and out and in, and God is in …. Goddess in …. God is Zen …. Got us in …. God is in

    Credits:

    Words by Billy Jonas, Laura Mahr & Chris Chandler
    Music by Billy Jonas
    Billy Jonas:  vocals, guitar, industrial re-percussion

    Copyright 1998 Billy Jonas, Laura Mahr & Chris Chandler / Bang-A-Bucket Music, BMI www.billyjonas.com

    http://youtu.be/BKZ82oo-jN0

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