An old draft newly posted

First written April 2014

Growth is a spiral of expansion and contraction. Change forces you through the mitzrayim, the narrow place where options are reduced, choices are limited and the walls press close in, constricting and blinding. Having just finished Passover, the awareness of Mitzrayim is high. Each Jew is encouraged to look at their own places of mitzrayim –  the places where we constrict our own energy. We are encouraged to look at self-liberation even as we explore the story of being released from Egypt and the bonds of slavery. Freeing your self is painful, scary, exhilarating, terrifying, maddening, exciting and just plain confusing. It is easier to remain in the narrow strait of comfort and familiarity than to imagine and create something new.

But the internal promptings of the soul,  the still small voice within murmurs of the need for change like the sound of the quiet creek in the thickets. It prickles like sand on skin, irritating until you pay attention; it teases and harries like the mockingbird forcing you away from her nest. The still small voice becomes a clarion, shrieking for change like a bull elephant thundering at you through the bush until you can no more stand still but must heed its warning. And there is terror in the running.

kol-haolam

I  stand on the narrow bridge, in the narrow straits knowing that things must change. Like a lightning bolt that topples the tree, change is upon me. I am in reactive phase; looking at possible destruction of some of the basic structure of my life and the idea that everything could fall apart. I stand trembling and afraid – afraid of making the wrong choice, of misinterpreting signs, of putting my family at risk. It feels like crisis energy – adrenaline, mad impulses to flee, the temptation of the truly unknown. Fortunately teachings come when needed and my wise teacher clued me in to the movements on the larger astrological plane. All of the energies suggest fiery energy, unresolved patterns, an urge for change, for freedom. Rock the boat, break free, ride the wave, be the change!

When crisis energy creeps along the edges of reality, dreams are troubled and energy is chaotic. Thoughts of radical liberation tickle: Buy a camper and hit the road! Sell everything and go to Costa Rica! Leave, just leave and don’t look back.”

All of those messages promise a different path, a path of freedom from care, from worry, from responsibility. The open door beckons and I can visualize stepping through it. Breaking the bonds that tie me here in a second. I see myself sitting in a bar in Mexico watching the sun go down, cold drink in my hand, no thought of those I left behind or what will happen tomorrow.

But at the end of the day, the end of the minute, the next breath in, when a friend offers the prayer of sharing time, the gift of a hug, the solace of inspiration, then thoughts of fleeing subside.  My wise friend who shows up whenever I need him, right where I never expect to find him in the place he always is begins the conversation as he always does, as if it was yesterday’s continuation. “Bless you,” he says. “Bless you.” “Hallelujah” I cry to the green growing world. The wild plant energy cascades a rainbow shimmer across my heart and eyes.

I sink to my knees and turn my face to the sun. I have been running and need to walk. Need to soak my tired soul in essence of change. Or is it essence of stillness? When is sitting in stillness a radical change? When does movement cease so that the whispers of butterflies can be heard and the quiet growth of snap peas can be observed, taken in? When does running not solve the need for change? I learn to stay in place and let the change be of a different sort. Of a trusting sort that looks to the wise universe and sweet friends for support.

And so the contractions of change begin: the dissolution of the caterpillar into primordial ooze, reforming itself into butterfly. The pulsing of the womb sending the child down through the narrow place into the expansion of first breath. The caterpillar and the baby do not fear change, and, like them, on my narrow bridge, I will not either.

Who I Am and Why I am Here!

Who I Am and Why I am Here!

I love prompts like this. Let’s just wrap  the answers to all the hardest questions in the universe into 1 easy paragraph!! I am doing the Blogging 101 course in order to deepen my mad blogging skills and figure out exactly why I am writing and how I will “use it.”  Hineni means “Here I am.” So it’s kind of funny that the first question is “Why are you here?”  On an existential level, I am here because I am here. To be more present is the answer to why am I here. When the universe calls out “Where are you?” I answer “Hineni.” That’s why I’m here.

As to the who I am question, I answer with the phrase Ehyeh asher ehyeh which is “I am that I am” or “I am becoming that which I am becoming.” Or to pull from the wisdom of the spinach eating pirate “I yam what I yam…” So that’s who I am.

But those are the bird’s eye views. For this particular question, I am blogging because I love to write and because I think I have something to say! Things that I think others might want to hear.

I journaled most of my life until I had children and then I stopped. Now I don’t journal because I really don’t want to write into a void. I want to write for an audience! Whew – that is really hard to admit!!

Part of my journey is claiming my wisdom and uncovering the teacher within. Eventually I believe I will create a second blog that is targeted towards the next phase of my work which will revolve around teaching and facilitating on community building, social justice and building the beloved community. For now, I am just writing for the love of words, for the delight of wrapping my mind around a topic and expressing it. This blog explores small acts of creativity, parenting and role of art in my life. I explore how I can be deeply present in my life, find satisfaction and also how do I push to deepen my connections with the natural world, with being Jewish and with being creative. And I might write about chickens too.

Is it enough?

Is it enough?

I am sure folks have seen the Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation floating around  on Facebook:

I muse on that today as I get ready to go back to work. I am the director of a small community center in the heart of the most diverse square mile in the US. We are a gathering place for art, education, recreation and community building serving newly arrived refugees and long time residents. One in three residents is foreign-born and the local high school boasts over 57 languages! Over 40,000 individuals come through each year looking for all kinds of things: for help, for education, for fun; to serve, to grow, to celebrate. We have gardens, art, classes, social services, events, and a variety of programs. Wrapping around it all is a peace-making initiative of community engagement. We believe that if you have a chance to hang out with your neighbors, get to know them a bit, share food, art or sports then there is a good chance you will discover that people are not as “different” as you think they are; that having an opportunity to play or work with someone builds bridges. We find that sometimes simply coming in contact with people who are different from yourself opens up your heart and mind.

So as I get ready to return to work following the winter holidays, I am musing on the work of trying to do good in the world, to find satisfaction in the small scale, huge work of community building in this little town. I often wonder if it is making a difference. If I am making a difference. I have been there nearly five years now and I have seen a lot of things change. I have seen things get better despite some efforts to rip down and hinder any hint of progress. I see how the recession brought people together to bridge silos and to be more open about sharing resources. I see amazing creativity in working with little resources and getting amazing things done. Some days I see this.

Some days it just feels as though nothing is changing, nothing is getting better, People are stuck in their ways. There is ineptitude, rigidity and judgement.  Often I feel like Sisyphus – pushing the rock up the hill only to have it crash back down upon me. If there is a lesson I have learned it is that true change is sloooowwww… Glacially slow… Mind numbingly, frustratingly slow. As an impatient person, I some days have trouble with this! I don’t want to have this conversation again, address this issue again, beat my head against this particular wall again…

Some days it feels not quite as satisfying as  I imagine building a well in a rural village or opening a school where there is none, would be. Things that seem more romantic and more immediate.  But I know deep in my heart that that conception is idealized.  All of my Peace Corps friends talk about wondering  if they are making any difference at all too. In international development work, people discover first hand how truly heavy and hard that rock is to push up the hill.

Some days, however, I see the pay off. I can certainly see the growth in the agency itself – all the incredible growth that has happened over five years. But I can see it in the community as well. Teens getting Gates scholarship, residents stepping up and putting on festivals, community working together, shy children able to speak confidently before their peers. Seeing people feel empowered and gaining confidence in their lives. But change is slow. Long standing social issues don’t change quickly. Generational poverty doesn’t go away overnight. Apartment complexes don’t get better in a month. Schools don’t turn around in a year. The problems are so multi-faceted and often interconnected.

The world is so large and I am so small. Is it enough, this small work that I do? Can I do more? Can I do more and stay sane? Not burn out? I need to pace myself for the long haul. Which sometimes means making personal choice for time out, for self care, for the kind of  indulgence that is a privilege afforded me by virtue of being a middle class American. It might just be operating in mainstream American society for a couple days and not thinking about hungry people or access to health care or medicaid paper work. I have that luxury. I carry the fights within me; the injustices, the world devastation, the discrimination and intolerance but I can also choose to put them on a back burner for a moment and find renewal of spirit by checking out.

People in non-profit service industries tend to burn out and move around a lot. It is hard work being in the trenches. Some feel called by God to serve, others by a sense of moral injustice, others by a desire to give back. I have always been in non-profits – I saw the inequalities and injustices and knew that I couldn’t turn my back. That if I didn’t do it, it might not get done. I also know that I can’t do everything despite my care and awareness about all the issues. So I do what I can do and I seek satisfaction in so doing.

I work to live my life authentically. To model what I teach. To seek satisfaction in the small moments and to build community in all of my life. As I complete my 50th year I know that I have lived well and I believe I am making a difference. It may be small differences but what is life made of if not a collection of small moments and small circles of people reaching towards each other and the sky?

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