Sacred Space Marriage

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Archive for the category “Spirituality”

The Journey of Passover, by Hanna Perlberger

As a kid, I never questioned this whole thing about the matzoh – that when we left Egypt so quickly we didn’t have time for the dough to rise (which is only 18 minutes by the way).  But I wonder about it now.  I’m trying to picture the scene of three million people leaving a country on foot.  No one made leavened bread before they left?   As the call was sounded to leave, everyone was in the process of preparing dough at that moment – and then had to cook it unleavened?   We took the wealth of Egypt with us, we took tambourines, the bones of Joseph.  We dug up the trees that Abraham had planted hundreds of years ago.  How did we have to time to manage that, but not let the dough rise?   Something just doesn’t add up for me.

After asking around, (OK, so I asked just one rabbi who smiled and shrugged), I gave up on getting the answer, because I decided there wasn’t much of a question.  We took what they needed – nothing more and nothing less.  It was simple, really.  We took matzoh, we took gold silver and wood to build the tabernacle, tambourines to celebrate, Joseph’s bones to bury in Israel, etc., because that is what we needed for our spiritual and material mission.

Despite the saying that we should simply let go of our baggage, imagine how you would feel if you arrived at the baggage claim of the airport and your baggage was lost?  You’d be upset – right?  The point is not just to let go of your baggage, but to make sure that you have packed well, that you are taking what you need and not forgetting what’s important.  When we left Egypt, we had baggage, alright, but we had packed well.

Ask yourself – what in your life are you carrying around that you don’t need anymore or that doesn’t fit who you are now?  What are you forgetting or reluctant to take on that does fit you now, or maybe the person you are becoming?   There is only so much room, so much time, and so many resources.  What are you giving the space of your life to?  What are you trading the limited time of your life for?

Another aspect of the hasty departure is the issue of timing.  Our tradition states that we were at the 49th level of spiritual impurity – if we stayed any longer, we would have reached the 50th level, from which we could not have been redeemed.  So, besides taking what we needed for the journey, we could not delay and we could not be indecisive.  The Jews who didn’t want to leave Egypt (the majority of them, incredibly) had died during the plague of darkness.

We aren’t often presented with choices that have fatal consequences like that.  But we often struggle with decisions and get paralyzed and stay in abusive relationships, dead-end jobs, lead unfulfilled lives, etc.  We smell spring in the air – and don’t want to leave the warm cave.  We want to be caterpillars forever.  We hear the urgent whisper inside us – the same voice that tells the blade of grass to grow – and we tune it out.  We may be physically alive but are we spiritually dead?

So the lesson of Passover for me is twofold.  First, I need to know when it’s time to go, time to move on, time to expand my horizons, time to embrace a new reality, and to make peace with uncertainty.  And secondly, I need to know what to take with me on my journey, namely, what set of beliefs and thoughts should I leave behind and what set of beliefs and thoughts will serve me best as I walk out of the narrow confines of Egypt and into my vast unfolding date with holiness?   When our sages say that we should remember the leaving of Egypt every day in our prayers, maybe this is why – so that we can decide every day when to step out of what’s not working for us, how to walk towards holiness and what to take for the trip.

Hanna Perlberger, J.D., B.C.C.

Sacred Space Marriage (Solutions for Soul-mates)


Who Do They Think You Are?  by Hanna Perlberger

Click on the link to read my article in TheJewishWoman.Org

An Attitude of Gratitude – Living a “Modah Ani” Life

The room was dark, except for a few candles.  Wearing her winter coat indoors, hands cupping hot soup brought in from a friend, she sat on her mourner’s stool.  That’s how you sit shiva during Hurricane Sandy, when you’ve lost your electricity, heat, the normal amenities of life, and your dad.

The funeral was in NY, hours before the main outrage of the storm, allowing my friend to get out and get back to PA.  “Gesturing around her, she laughed, “Dad would have liked this – the drama of it all,” and she recounted one of her father’s exploits in his old age, where he parachuted out of a plane – and had a heart attack on the way down.

At age, 60, he walked away from the garment industry where he had worked for almost 40 years and went back to graduate school, becoming a licensed social worker at age 63.  He then went on to have a practice counseling addicts, until his early 80’s.  He worked up until a month before his death, dragging his oxygen tank with him wherever he went.  His favorite toy was a horn he kept by his feet during his therapy sessions and when a client was in denial and blame mode, he would surreptitiously reach down and then suddenly blast the horn.  The therapy technique is called “pattern interrupt” which stands for “cut it out!”  When you’re on oxygen, and routinely on dialysis, you get that life is too short for the persistent avoidance of truth.

But some days were rough, really rough, and when my friend would call her dad, sometime in the hospital, or in bed recovering from the latest round of dialysis, and she would ask, “How are you feeling, dad?”, he would always answer, “Fannnn-tastic!!!!  So what’s going on with you?  Tell me something good, tell me something new, what’s making your world rock today, sweetheart?”

The weekly Torah portion that we read right after the hurricane was “Vayeira”, about the angels visiting Abraham and Sarah with the message that they would have a son, and the Torah describes Abraham and Sarah as being “well on in years”.  The Zohar comments that “each day in a person’s life carries its own challenges and mission.  What is to be accomplished today cannot be postponed to tomorrow, because tomorrow has its own set of things to do.”  For Sarah and Abraham, being “well on in years” meant that they fully used their days, and that they tapped into their life’s mission on a day-by-day basis.

By the time he died, my friend’s father’s body had completely wasted away; there was nothing physically left of him.   He squandered nothing – not a day, not an hour, not even his muscles and sinews.  When he was strong and vigorous, he lived larger than life.  Ill and incapacitated, he lived as large as he could under the circumstances, because that was his mission then – to beam happiness when others would be bitter.

I say the prayer which begins “modah ani” (“I gratefully thank You”) every morning when I wake up, thanking G-d for a new day of life.  Sometimes I’m really tuned in to the words, but often I am not.  The idea is to wake up with an “attitude of gratitude”.  I see it differently now.  The point is not to have a “modah ani” moment, or a “modah ani” morning, but to create a “modah ani” day, and hopefully, live a “modah ani” life.  Yes, that’s it – a “modah ani” life.  So  let it be said of us at the end of our days, that we were “well on in years”, that we weathered our storms, and that we had a life that was absolutely “Fannn-tastic!!!!!”

Hanna Perlberger, J.D., B.C.C.

Tai Chi Walking on Yom Kippur, by Hanna Perlberger

Inexplicably, I fell in love with boxing.  I switched to boxing after I got injured during my love affair with kempo karate.  Now, I am in physical therapy for a boxing injury, so in the manner of loving the one you’re with, or at least the one that doesn’t require cortisone shots and physical therapy, I am learning Tai Chi.  And this relationship may actually last.

I’ve only had a few classes so far, but I am learning the art of “Tai Chi walking”.

An apt description of how a person normally walks is that walking is a form of “controlled falling”.  The weight is forward, and the leg comes out at an angle to prevent the body from falling.

In contrast, in Tai Chi walking, the person is not leaning forward; the weight and body are centered, and when the leg comes out, only the heel touches.  There is no weight in that leg.  The heel is testing the waters.  Is this ground safe?  Is it good?  Is this where I want to go?  Do I want to commit to this action?  And when the decision to take that step is made, only then does the body commit and although weight is transferred to the extended leg, the body stays centered and straight.  Then, there is a yielding, what I describe as an internal “yes”, a shift back and then another step forward.  People doing Tai Chi walking often keep their arms clasped behind their backs because their weight is always centered and there is no danger of falling.

So, really, who cares?  What’s the difference?  We have obviously mastered the art of “controlled falling” or every step would land us on the ground.   So here’s the difference – and a lesson to be learned – it’s about intention, space, and balance.  It’s about accepting the reality of what is and then making a choice.  It’s about letting things be as they are – the surface of the ground, the situation, the person, and then deciding the action to which you want to commit, and doing it with grace and ease, almost looking as if you are barely moving as people seem to go flying around you, and as they rush towards you, you allow their energy to go on by, pull them along if necessary, and sometimes introduce them to your best friend – the floor.  But I get ahead of myself.  Back to walking.

On Yom Kippur, we ask forgiveness for the sins which we commit with “our legs which run to do evil”.   It’s an odd image.  Running towards the forbidden?  Seriously?  Running?  Do you have any idea how much damage I can do sitting at my desk?  Or is the idea that when I do something I know I shouldn’t do, what’s my pace?  Do I dawdle, do I take my time, procrastinate, consider my options, or am I “on it”, like, three cups of double espresso “on it”?  Am I in a state of controlled falling?  Am I falling?

In contrast, the idea of Tai Chi walking embodies the space of presence.  If you can go from the normal state to where your thoughts and your actions are separated by a line, to where they are separated by a space, a moment, a pause, for you to consider your next action, your next move, the next things you say, you will be giving yourself – and everyone around you – a tremendous gift, the gift of emotional mastery.

Now I’m not suggesting that you live life in slow motion.  That would not be practical.  While certain serious actions should take a lot of time to weigh the consequences, I am thinking of a slight pause, here.  You know, every time we breathe in or out, there is a very slight pause which occurs at the end of the in-breath and the end of the out-breath.  There is this slight pause of no air, of stillness, as the lungs prepare to reverse course.  When I teach breathing techniques to my clients, I try to get them to focus on this pause, to direct their attention there, because when you are in the space of the pause, it is very difficult to be anywhere else.   That’s the kind of space I mean.

So, if we gave ourselves the gift of this pause, this space, if we tested the ground, made certain we had sure footing, were certain we wanted to commit to this path, then, and only then, would we – in a balanced and centered way – shift our weight to our outstretched leg to put our full intention into that step.  If we did that, how could we ever run to do evil?    How could we stumble into error?  How could we ever fall?  And by yielding, by first having an “internal yes” before we then react with intention – we can act with such internal power and choice instead of being triggered and acting from unconscious habit.

If all I accomplish by staying with Tai Chi is avoiding my orthopedic doctor’s office for a while, that alone would be good.  But I see so much more that will help me have balance, control, intention, and help me achieve emotional mastery, so that my legs will keep me walking, with the gift of one sure foot after another, towards the light.

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How to Get to Mars – a Rosh Hashanah Metaphor, by Hanna Perlberger

First, click on this link immediately and watch this jaw dropping video.  Then, read the rest of this blog. No cheating.

I saw this video this morning, two days before going into Rosh Hashanah. I watched the rocket go through many changes, metamorphoses. Each time, the rocket uses what it needs to get to that stage of the journey, and then sheds what is no longer useful to it. Each time it gets smaller and more focused.

Once each propellant system was done, it was immediately discarded. If this didn’t happen, if there would have been a malfunction, if it didn’t release its excess baggage at each precise moment, not only would the rocket not have been able to go to the next stage of the journey, the excess weight would probably have sent it crashing back to the earth.

The rocket does what it has to in order to get to its goal, constantly adapting to each phase of its journey. The success of the mission is by no means certain, however. All the scientists can do is design this rocket to get into a trajectory to reach Mars. Once that happens, they wait. And wait. Its journey is no longer controllable by man. It has been positioned for success, but there is no guarantee of outcome.

As the rocket (now a tiny fraction of its size) approaches, new uncertainties arise – will it survive the crash? Will it be able to transmit a signal? Will it work?

The important thing to remember is that nothing on the rocket was extraneous. It was all by design. Our outdated and untrue beliefs about ourselves – and others – may seem out of our control, or certainly not by design. But that isn’t so – at the heart of all of it, it is an intention to protect. Often, coping mechanism or survival skills we take on that serve us in one instance, cause dysfunction in another setting or stage of our lives. If we dig deeply, we can get to the root of the belief or behavior, and understand that its original purpose was really trying to serve, trying to protect. So we can honor and thank that belief, that behavior, for serving us, and then let it go.

As I go into Rosh Hashanah and I think of the choices I want to make that will have me show up in the world differently, I have to look behind me, as well. What am I dragging into this new year that doesn’t work for me, that is weighing me down, that can cause me to crash, that will prevent me from moving ahead on my journey? What resentments or false beliefs about myself am I holding onto, that don’t serve the mission of my life?

Like the rocket to Mars, there are no guarantees. That’s the fate and mystery of life. But, unless we put ourselves in the trajectory of the path we want to go on, unless we equip ourselves for each phase, for sure we will never ever get there.

The rocket had a mission – Mission to Mars. All human beings have a mission. What’s yours?

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