Consequences: how our actions build character

The consequences of some actions are clear.

I drop a glass on the tile floor, and the glass shatters.

I turn away from someone who is talking to me, and something in the relationship shatters – in a small or a big way.

Over the span of a year, a decade, a lifetime – cause and effect tend to be less clear to us. How have our actions and their consequences added up over time? How have we built our character? Out of what have we built our character?

All of which makes me deeply grateful for the Jewish cycle of Holy Days, which are heading toward their annual high point.

It is said that on the Jewish New Year, our names are inscribed in the Book of Judgment. Who will live and who will die. Who will live in peace and who in anxiety.

It is said that ten days later – on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – that Book, and our destiny for the year, are sealed.

During the in between days we are both cautioned and encouraged to engage in three sorts of actions that can assure us of being inscribed and sealed for a good year. (Interestingly enough, the seeking and granting of forgiveness with our fellow humans, a main focus of the whole period of time, is not among the three actions that can “avert the decree” of misery or death.)

Turning, or returning (in Hebrew, teshuvah), which involves heartful remorse, actions to repair or provide restitution for harm done, and resolve to refrain from repeating the behavior.

Prayer (in Hebrew, tefilah), an introspective and simultaneously connecting effort. The Hebrew root connotes both a discerning evaluation of oneself and a strengthening of ourattachment to God. This attachment exists as a matter of the nature of Reality, regardless of whether we feel “close” to God or not.)

Material acts of justice (in Hebrew, tzedakah), commonly understood to be an obligation to give charity, but which can be understood more broadly as acts that redress wrongs to individuals or to social groups.

There is a growing urgency as we near the end of our 26+ hour fast on Yom Kippur, our destiny all but sealed, yet even then our tears are said to be a gateway that remains open.

And the turning and re-turning, the discerning and attachment, the material acts of justice? On we go with these companions, day by day until the year turns once more, as we pause again to face the Character in the mirror.

Rumi-nating on the New Year and sharp knives

First I have to notice.

The month before Rosh Hashonah is devoted to reviewing one’s accounts, seeing what is in need of repair – how my ways of doing and being have uplifted or downtrodden, made whole or split, brought solace or suffering. So first comes noticing.

Some years that is all I can do, and then my resolve to repair, restore, make whole does not have much flesh and bone behind it.

This year I have been blessedly hit with insights into very fundamental dynamics about how I live my life and move through the world, so much so that I can quite literally feel my body moving through space made solid. I can feel with my senses the effects as I move through the world unaware, in self-protective mode, how one “no” after another leaves the world around me roughed up and distressed. And how different the effects when I am awake to my full and imperfect humanity. Then even the “no” changes meaning and claims its actual power.

As I enter this New Year, I am deeply resolved to notice, and to choose the sharp blade as a kindness to myself and the world.

May you be blessed to be a blessing to your dear ones and to the world in the year 5778.



by Sara Eisenberg


I would say yes quickly if

I could, Master Rumi, if

I would.


Drowsing or distracted I am clumsy and

ragged, no

less nor more than any

one, propelled through

space thick with love

that I take for wood or

ice that needs a


saw, a NO that is my first



There is nothing for it.

Once born, I am skin and mind-



Then I remember God said and it was

very good.


How I would be

fresh from the water stone,

a keen blade slicing through

life, leaving no jagged open

seeping wound.


You would only feel the lightest

caress on your bare

skin, met, set

apart from all creation by your precious

unequalled existence.


The following came to me some time after I wrote this poem: while I do not keep kosher, I know that to minimize suffering to a permitted animal, a knife used for slaughtering must be extremely sharp,  is inspected both before and after the  slaughter, and must be applied in a single uninterrupted movement that does not tear tissues.

In practice: the medium is the message

Dear Friends,

Today I celebrate a full year of showing up with a weekly post about some aspect of living A Life of Practice.

The medium has been the message: this blog has been a promise to myself to keep showing up, sharing my sometimes rough growing edges, my ongoing questions, and my occasional revelations. In other words, it has proved a powerful way for me to remain in practice.

Your comments and personal emails to me about the ways you have resonated with my words, and been encouraged and inspired in your own life, have been a joy and ongoing inspiration to receive.

So a gift and a request for you, my subscribers ….

The gift: an opportunity to explore a personal question about practice in your life in a thirty minute conversation – to the first five subscribers who respond.  Just cut and paste “personal question about practice”  in the message box linked here and I’ll be in touch to schedule.

The request: however A Life of Practice has captured your interest, please send this post on to 3 friends with a few words about what nourishes you here, and invite them to subscribe here.

With blessings for all you need to arrive at the life of practice that nourishes you.

May your life in practice bring you home to the uniquely wise and imperfect human you are.

With gratitude,


I am including links to a selection of posts that provoked a chain of thoughtful responses:

Nothing is as you left it? Walking into Walls?…/transition-and-mischief-m…/

Make Yourself Useful…/make-yourself-useful/

Listen to Your Body, it speaks truth…/listen-to-your-body-it-sp…/

The Morning After: a 21st Century Creation Story…/morning-after-the-election/

How to sit in the dark…/how-to-sit-in-the-dark/

Thank you to my women friends, who come bearing gifts…/women-friends-come-bearin…/

Your motive question: What is it you are trying to solve?

The power of a motive question

I have been asked from time to time in my nondual healing studies – usually as I try to avoid one of my personal demons by pinning down some new piece of understanding, knowledge or skill:  “What is it you are trying to solve?”

The “answer” to this question is not a statement, but another question – what I call a motive question, because it is one that moves us powerfully – and unconsciously – into action over and over again throughout our lives.

A motive question makes its presence known in our lives as we repeatedly circle around frustrations, guilts, and disappointments. It dogs us through serial (if monogamous) relationships, work lives, creative endeavors, week-end workshops, pilgrimages, marches.

In the past few days, inspired by the courage and vulnerability of my healing colleagues, I have once again taken up that question: What am I trying to solve as I live my life?  It has ushered me deep into weeping with loneliness. I have explored this loneliness before through poetry about my very early life, but I rarely allow it to arrive so fully in my consciousness or my body.

I could say that my motive question is: How can I live so that I avoid feeling this loneliness? Many other voices and opinions chime in. Some sow delight in my being, others plague. I write down what each has to say. Eventually they drop into song together, a refrain of yearning and commitment, a truth-filled response to my motive question:

I can bear to show up and be seen

I can bear to speak and be heard

I can bear to touch and be touched

I can bear to hold and be held

as the woman I am

as the Jew I am

in all my whiteness

not only for the sake of others

but for my own sake.

Perhaps this is the right timing for you to begin to inquire into your own motive question.

There is no more holy work. It solves nothing. Yet it brings healing and awakening to your soul and to the world.



Holy work

by Sara Eisenberg


As I sit to

engage in this holy reckoning,

the Corn Maiden is not her erect

sun-reaching self.


Instead her head rests against the flank

of the Blue Deer,

whose song calls her into existence,

sings to her: “multiply and feed,” and

settles each and every god into

her role.


And so chaos yields to One, separation

after another,

glistening particulars across all

firmaments, oceans, marshes, deserts,

across all concepts, beliefs, borders, memes.


The body of the world is all hands and eyes, they

touch and bless each

shape and texture as it comes into

life, catches vivid fire, warms and burns,


touch and bless each

small death-into-life before the body wearies



touch and bless,

clapping and

shining with tears

of a joy so great

even sorrow

finds lodging.