Beliefnet
The Bliss Blog

Hands, Globe, Earth, Protection, Planet

 

I was raised in the Jewish faith tradition, going to synagogue every Friday night with my parents and sisters for as long as I can remember. Rituals for various holidays, including kindling Shabbos candles, creating the Passover seder and lighting the Hanukkah menorah were an integral part of my life. Saying the Shema which is the signature prayer in the religion, has been something I have done automatically since childhood.

“Shema Yisrael, Adonai, Elohenu, Adonai Echad,” being chanted by rote, and the translation I followed it with then, “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”  Much later in life, when attending synagogue services at Beth Or, in South Florida, the rabbi, Rami Shapiro, introduced me to words that resonated more fully with my searching soul, “That which we call God is Oneness itself.” It was such a vital ritual in my childhood, that even when my parents went out for the evening, babysitters would listen to our recitation.

I’m not sure how many years ago I adopted a practice of saying before getting out of bed, the morning prayer called Modeh Ani:

“Modeh anee lefanecha melech chai vekayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmatee b’chemla, raba emunatecha. (Click here for audio of a Modeh Ani song.)

I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”

In 1999, I enrolled in The New Seminary to complete a two-year program (in 6 months) and was ordained as an interfaith minister. I now speak, counsel and offer rituals in that capacity. A nice Jewish girl became a Rev. Imagine that.

Daily, I am faced with the question: How can a loving and just God allow for the atrocities in the world? Since the 2016 election, that thought pops up several times each day when the newest appalling piece of news is broadcast. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. How can children be torn apart from their families?  How can hatred be permitted to spew forth from the mouth of one whose role is supposed to be a leader and not a dictator? How can those who align with his vitriolic tirades be allowed to kill in his name? How can anyone be permitted to prosper when they are robbing people and the planet of life?

I have what I call God-versations, that enable me to speak 1:1 with the Divine. I wonder if they are monologues or dialogues. Am I talking to the God within, the animated spark that fills all spaces? Am I conversing with an energy like The Force in Star Wars? Can I know that my petitioning for peace and healing is really heard and acted upon? I struggle at times to believe that anything I say or do can possibly make a difference and then someone will thank me for my presence and words. That helps me to keep doing what I am guided to do.

My prayer for this day is that I will find the ways to communicate the love of the One I am coming to understand. May peace and love prevail on Earth.

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

Directory, Signposts, Hope, Hopelessness, Depression

One of my favorite blast from the past songs offered up by the Five Stairsteps is called Ooh, Child. It became a theme song of sorts when I worked in a psychiatric hospital. One of the charge nurses, named Katie used to sing it. I imagine it benefitted the patients and I KNOW it helped me get through some challenging days. Seven years after leaving that job, the song pops up from time to time.

This morning, I was listening to NPR which is my go-to station for factual news and the conversation was about the horrific gun violence over the past few days in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. There have been more mass shootings in 2019 in the United States than there have been days of the year thus far. Terrifying, angering, and inexcusable. For me, it is not a political issue, but rather, it is a safety and right to life issue. Those who claim to be ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-gun’ have mutually opposing values, as far as what I can see. It matters not if someone has the right to own and carry since they don’t have the right to cause harm to another, because of any other beliefs they have. No one needs to worry when they go out in public, that they may not return. No one should fear that loved ones will meet a tragic fate.

I am a licensed social worker who has worked with clients with mental health diagnoses and addiction over the past 40 years and despite that, none of them have ever grabbed a gun and shot a whole bunch of people. Hatred is the illness, promoting it with rhetoric is the illness. The insanity is bigotry and seeing people ‘not like them,’ as being a dangerous other. Guns are the means to carry out those beliefs. Anyone that promotes that viewpoint is complicit.

Over the weekend, my son, daughter-in-law and her parents were at a concert seeing the surviving members of Queen, along with Adam Lambert in Freddie Mercury’s role. Although I didn’t think about it beforehand, that kind of venue could have potentially been a target. On the same night, I was with friends at a massive outdoor music festival, at which people were tightly packed in streets that stretched for miles. I had the thought that it would be frightening for people who had social anxiety or claustrophobia. It didn’t occur to me until afterward that it too could have been the perfect place for someone who somehow justified their actions out of hatred, to mow down the revelers.

I don’t think about it moment by moment, but am not in denial either.  Schools, houses of worship, concert venues, nightclubs, malls, and stores have all been targets. The fingers on the triggers have hatred tattooed on them. There are those who claim that mental illness is the reason. Throughout the world, there are many with mental health diagnoses who don’t pick up weapons. Without easy access to guns, those fueled by anger and urged on by this administration and the NRA, this would not be as prevalent and pervasive.

After a few minutes, I found that I could listen no longer to the words and continue to feel the anguish. I switched the station to music and the song Ooh, Child came on at the perfect time. I cried along with it and felt as if a message was being sent special delivery to my sad heart and weary soul.

Sunflower, Sunflower Field, Flowers, Summer, Bloom

Lately, like many, I have found myself wanting to hibernate, hiding under my covers until the nightmare is over that has been unfolding in this country since Election Day 2016. No matter which side of the aisle you are on, know that what happens here is going to have an effect on your future and that of any children or grandchildren. I shudder when I contemplate the downward spiral that is permitted to continue without powerful intervention by those who have the ability to put a halt to it. It seems surrealistic.

Add to it that I am a therapist who sits daily with clients whose own lives seem like they too are spiraling out of control at times and I recognize why I feel as I do. It is then that I seek the support of the wise people in my circles who remind me of the importance of self-care that includes music, dancing, working out at the gym, time in nature, naps, meditation, writing, drumming, art, massage, hugs and compassion for the woman in the mirror.

On my way to work, I pass a farm-stand in front of a rural- road home. A table is filled with little bins of veggies and a large white bucket with stalks of bright-faced sunflowers, smiling at me. There are two bunches soaking in the cool water, that ask to come with me. I put the money in the box that is there on the honor system and carry them to the car. Once I get to the office, I hand a flower to several co-workers and leave others on the desks of those who haven’t arrived yet. Their faces light up like those on the flowers. At the end of the workday, I take mine home with me and place them in a vase in my kitchen, so I can enjoy their beauty.

One of the things I love about sunflowers is that they follow the sun and that if it is cloudy, they turn to face each other. It is their natural instinct to do so. As a human, I am learning that I can either huddle in the dark, fearful of what might happen on any given day, or turn my own face toward the brightness as I soak in the rays. I am willing to mutually absorb energy with those to whom I can also turn.

Photo credit:  Pixabay

gymbreathe

I am the daughter of a gym rat. My dad was a lifelong athlete and became a Golden Gloves boxer in the Navy who said he remembered sparring with Charles Bronson back then. Not sure who won, but I can imagine my tenacious father giving it all he had. When my sister and I were under 10, he taught us a bit about the pugilistic arts, having us don gloves, headgear and mouth guards before we took playful swings at each other. My standard line is that it is a good thing I am a pacifist, or I would have developed a mean right hook. With him, I also jumped rope, rode bikes, skated, went sledding and jogging.  He instilled a love of fitness. When he retired in 1998, he and my mom moved to Ft. Lauderdale and for another 18 years, he worked in a gym until Parkinson’s robbed him of his physical stamina. After he could no longer work, he still worked out at the gym and when he could no longer do that, my mom took him swimming (paddling and floating mostly) and would walk with him around their condo.

In addition to some of the aforementioned activities (not boxing), my mother used to swim with us when we were kids, attending our swim meets as well.  We would work out in front of the tv as we watched Exercise with Gloria and Jack LaLanne. In retirement, she taught water aerobics and senior stretch class, called Stretching With Selma. Whenever I would fly down from Philly to visit them, the gym and pool were among the highlights. I attended my mom’s classes and was impressed by the vitality of her students in their 60s and beyond and was not about to let them show me up! One woman was in her 90s and walked 1/4 mile each way in the Florida heat to get to the class. My mother would offer to drive her and she refused.

momanddadfitness

These days, the gym is my go-to destination for fitness and release of stress. Once upon a time, (five years ago), I was there five or six times a week as part of my burning the candle at both ends routine that included little sleep and too much hustle-bustle activity. On the way home, on June 12, 2014, I had a heart attack which required cardiac rehab, more structured workouts and actually less time at the gym, per the instructions of a doc who asked if I wanted to get sick again. She insisted that I needed time to reset between workouts. Naps are now part of my health regimen. I am there, at Planet Fitness (a.k.a. The Judgement Free Zone) three or four times a week, for 45-60 minutes each. In between, I walk through my little town of Doylestown, PA once or twice a week, often carrying my Hugmobsters Armed With Love sign, offering FREE HUGS, since hugs are emotionally and physically heart-friendly.

While at the gym this past week, I had what I call a gym-spiration. I clean off the machines after I use them as thoroughly as I would want someone else to clean it if I was to use it next. I am mindful to do the same thing in other areas of my life, so no one needs to clean up after me.  There was a time when I wasn’t as conscientious, somehow imagining that the cleanup faeries would somehow whisk away clutter.  They never did. When I lived that way, it made it difficult to find what I needed when I needed it. It made it inconvenient for others as I might have had to scramble to locate something for them. I am not naturally organized and in fact likely an undiagnosed with ADHD person. I have to keep corralling my mind from distracting thoughts. I create systems that keep me in line. I am not fastidious or white glove clean, but adhere to what I call The House Rules:

If you open it, close it.

If you take it out, put it back.

If you drop it, pick it up.

If you make a mess, clean it up.

Simple as that.

Other gym-spirations:

Lifting weights helps me lose weight, and I have come to realize that I need not carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I go at my own pace and not that set by anyone else. There is nothing to run away from. I used to think I could move faster than my fears. Unless faced, they have always caught up with me.

I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Sweat is liquid awesome”.  Right after the heart attack, I believed I had to produce copious amounts in order to feel accomplished. These days, I know that I can be awesome and cool at the same time.

Input from friends on the topic:

“That level of thinking about other people is sadly lacking in our culture right now. I think part of it comes from having so much information coming in all the time; we become narcissistic to protect ourselves.”

“I always set the weight back to it’s lowest setting as well as cleaning. Seems that some muscle head always wants to show off by leaving it at a ridiculously high weight.”

” Sadly not everyone is as thoughtful as you. What I disliked at the gym was having to smell offensive body odor, leaving machines sweaty and losers who use 3 machines simultaneously so no one else can use them. They get mighty pissed, heaven forbid, you attempt to use one and need to change the settings. Don’t even get me started on disgusting men who use the toilet and don’t wash their hands. Or how nasty they leave the showers.”

“If I could give one tip for people – it’s not an exercise or nutrition regimen. It’s to walk your talk and believe in yourself because, at the end of the day, the dumbbell and diet don’t get you in shape. It’s your accountability to your word.”-Brett Hoebel