Nothing is more refreshing, exciting and motivating than the chance for a new beginning. Rosh Hashanah 5777, the Jewish New Year, takes place on October 2, 2016 and celebrates the creation of the world. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance ending with the Yom Kippur holiday, also known as the Day of Atonement - the most sacred and important day on the Jewish calendar.
A joyous, thought-provoking holiday, Rosh Hashanah is a time when we try to gain perspective on the direction of our lives. First, I reflect on what has happened to me in the year leading up to the holiday before experiencing a quiet shift of my thoughts toward what I desire for the year ahead. As those who have witnessed my journey can tell you, this is my moment of transformation on many levels—like a butterfly set free no longer bound by that too-tight cocoon.
This year, I published a memoir about how I relieved the chronic pain in my body using a variety non-traditional healing methods, ultimately avoiding surgery all together. Through the trial of several different alternative therapies, I discovered that stored emotions and traumas were the major culprits of my pain, as I had been hoarding deep feelings of neglect and fear – even suffering secondary PTSD from the respective emotional and physical abuse I received at the hands of my brothers, and the casual dismissal of the problem by mother, a Holocaust survivor who was too traumatized from her and my father’s harrowing experience to realize the behaviors exhibited in our house weren’t normal. But we always had Rosh Hashanah dinner as a family.
We all sat at the dining table about to embark on the monumental holiday meal of chopped liver with warm rye bread, gefilte fish, tender juicy brisket with horseradish, roasted potatoes, a medley of cooked vegetables and a fresh soft honey cake direct from Benes’ Bakery on Third Street. The meal was always preceded by the Rosh Hashanah tradition of eating apples drizzled with honey, a Jewish symbol of our hopes for a sweet new year. In retrospect, it was that ingrained special faith that the coming year would actually improve that kept me in fifth gear, always moving forward.
That notion that we have the opportunity to become more and to improve our lives no matter what the circumstance is the backbone of my journey in which I continue to explore how we can heal ourselves. One of the best ways to heal is by breathing in a whole new way. This “breathwork” is actually an ancient Pranayama yoga breathing technique. In the book Rosh Hashanah Readings: Inspiration, Information, and Contemplation, Rabbi H. Rafael Goldstein makes many references to the breath. “Breath is life….Shema Yisrael Adonai—listen, be quiet and hear the sound of your own breathing. The breath of God is inside you. You breathe 26,000 times a day. The Hebrew word for breath is neshama, the same word as ‘soul’. We breathe our souls into ourselves, the breath of God, thousands of times a day, and yet we miss its importance. God is breathing your soul into your body. Listen, Yisrael, you will hear the presence of God in your own body.”
Trusting spirit while connecting to universal energy, we feel into our blocks with our breath, soon releasing unwanted emotions before allowing in what we truly want. When our minds and bodies are free, it is much easier for us to be who we really are. We are more able to feel love—the love for ourselves as well as the love of humanity.
Just before my book release last May, I developed anxiety. Searching for a reason, I discovered I carry the MTHFR genetic defect meaning my cells are unable to release toxins, a possible cause of anxiety. Immediately, I did a heavy metals cleanse. An avid coffee drinker, I would drink up to 5 cups a day, also a possible cause of anxiety. As a result, I quit coffee almost cold, making a change to better my mind and body as I enter into the Jewish New Year, a time when we are motivated to go inside ourselves making sincere and conscious choices to improve.
This Rosh Hashanah and beyond, I have a message to deliver: we have the ability to heal ourselves. We can change our direction by being more conscious of everything we do in our lives—noticing our own thoughts, behaviors, nutrition, mental health, environment and our level of toxic overload. I go into this Rosh Hashanah being of service with a wonderful family, great friends, enhanced intuition, a new-found energy, and a life connected to nature and creativity. And of course, I will indulge in apples drizzled with honey as I look forward to a sweet new year.