Falling down as a leader and getting up again

Falling down and getting up again is one of the hallmarks of the Nondual Kabbalistic Healing community that is my home.

This morning I fell down as a leader, and my healer-colleagues caught me.

And this is how it works among the imperfect humans that we are.

 

I always, always want to be at my best when I facilitate a meeting.

Clear intention. Clear agenda. Clear (preferably flawless) communication. Definitely flawless documents that reach participants in time to prepare. Show up knowing what I want, ready to state it and also make plenty of room for others to state their views. Open to learning and to changing my mind. But still, as a leader, I expect myself to be able to confidently say: we are going in this direction!

Oh, and presence. Taking in what is going on, considering it with wisdom, and…well, you get the picture (aka fantasy) in play here.

 

Today’s reality: unrelated to any meeting anxiety, I ‘d been awake since 3:00 am before this 8:30 meeting. Still recuperating from a respiratory bug, with a muzzy head and bleary eyes. With an unstable internet connection that could (and did) drop me from the meeting at any moment. I wasn’t the only one. A mom’s cancer surgery. A newborn grandson. A dog’s death. Everyone had Life going on.

One issue on the agenda – creating a Master Calendar for projects, was a big departure for this all-volunteer group’s working style. I expected a range of resistances to this proposal. There was none. On the contrary, people saw the need and how it would help. Exhale.

It had taken me a week to drop into how to frame a second major issue. That involved our vision for the community that we serve, and how to bring it alive in the biennial gathering we are planning for next summer. I felt very clear that offering attendees different creative ways to explore the theme of the gathering – movement, mask-making, a community mural – was the way to go. But in the service of what intention, with what goal? I was alarmed to find that as the chair I was coming up empty. I felt the best I could offer was an empty form. Ugh.

 

So here’s what happened.

My energies were low, my mind not too sharp, my level of presence questionable. I simply could not run the meeting in whatever my usual style is.  This left room for different conversations and inventiveness. Many dots were connected about how this could support that. Oh and of course the theme of the meeting could play out in this inspired way so it was really an integrated part of the whole. And oh this and that person have wonderful artistic specialties they might offer. In fact, that community resourcefulness is precisely what we want to harbor at the big gathering. Oh!

Lesson of the day: I was off my game, and this made room for fresh movement, new information, originality, heartfelt desires, initiative, skills, engagement. What a rich stew. An outcome that helped me get up, and left all of us uplifted, and in awe of one another.

I became useful in a different way when I fell down – off my own standards for myself. My colleagues picked me up and the whole committee enterprise too. Next time you feel off your game, consider you might be making room for something wholly new and brilliant to emerge. Including enlivened trust and intimacy in your group.

 

“I don’t knows” small, life-stopping, and life-giving

The small I don’t know

“I don’t know” surely ranks as among the most difficult phrases for many of us to utter. Our families and culture indoctrinate us, implicitly or explicitly, in one or another story of the associated dangers. Test anxiety, performance anxiety, terror of public speaking are some of the common ways this shows up in our lives: the unknown is an enemy.

I grew up shaped by an absolute certainty that personal calamity would result from not knowing. My very existence depended on knowing. Knowing what was in family members’ minds and hearts but was taboo to speak. Knowing when I was needed where and for what without being told. Knowing the right answer. Knowing with precision. Anticipating what I needed to know and maintaining a constant state of readiness. Exhausting. No wonder I had bags under my eyes even as a kid.

Eventually I found that when I could let go of the certainty of calamity, I was not an irredeemable failure. Instead I might learn something about myself, another human being, or the world. Being open to learning and possibility sometimes serves me as inspiration, other times as aspiration. It is a practice that I have at different times pursued cheerfully, doggedly, grumbling to myself.

And if I don’t garner new information, I have the chance to practice something else: patience, and humility.

 

The life-stopping I don’t know 

Being recalled for a mammogram. Knowing a loved one is in harm’s way. A sudden loss of security, health, relationship, function. I find this I don’t know mixed with bargaining prayers, grief, courage, urgency, helplessness, trust, terror. The very quality of time and space shifts. It seems odd if the sun is shining and the weather perfect.

I may have to mobilize my inner resources and outer supports. I may spend a lot of my energies figuring out what is the next right thing to do. I may need to weep or howl or break plates.

Yet somehow the quality of persistence pervades such times. The persistence of sunrise and sunset, sleeping and waking, breath.

 

…somehow becomes the life-giving I don’t know

The small I don’t knows have been swallowed by the mother of “I Don’t Knows” – which I can only call Mystery. I can make no sense of my life, of the world, of Life. My sense-making mechanisms don’t function normally. It’s not exactly that I lose my senses, my mind, and the defenses that I built upon them.

They are just not the right tool for this I Don’t Know.

 

What does seem to work is this: I rest my head up against the unknown

This unknown is so solid that as I do this, I can actually rest. I am comforted. I relax, physically. There is nothing for me to figure out. I do not need to listen in the way I’ve thought of listening. I do not need to open my heart or even be concerned about whether it is open or closed. There is neither pattern nor meaning to seek out. An open mouth. No words. Neither are words precluded nor actions hindered. Just my head resting up against the unknown, on the shoulder of a rock-solid friendship.

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,

Sara

_______________________________________________________________
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?
https://alifeofpractice.com/…/transition-and-mischief-m…/

Make Yourself Useful
https://alifeofpractice.com/daily-…/make-yourself-useful/

Listen to Your Body, it speaks truth
https://alifeofpractice.com/…/listen-to-your-body-it-sp…/

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

How to sit in the dark
https://alifeofpractice.com/dail…/how-to-sit-in-the-dark/

Thank you to my women friends, who come bearing gifts
https://alifeofpractice.com/…/women-friends-come-bearin…/

Dust, dirt, time lurk in the corners of our lives

Neglected corners

Dust, dirt, time lurk in the corners of our lives.

Since spring, I have purposefully and energetically dug into many neglected corners of the house we have lived in for 33 years. That is when we decided to undertake refinishing our wood floors and freshening the paint on our walls. During the months of preparation, my home office, otherwise known as “the back kitchen,” got a pretty thorough purging and re-organizing: but Life instructed me to get deeper into its corners, then turned up some treasures.

I was rehanging a freshly laundered valence when the curtain rod slipped out of its fabric track and fell down behind a heavy wooden file cabinet. I pondered my choices, then reached for a yard-long dowel we keep handy for retrieving wayward spatulas that fall behind the stove. Reached next for a flashlight to see how the curtain rod had landed, and where to apply the dowel to moving it out of this tight and otherwise unreachable space.

 

An odd assortment of objects gone missing

There were other shapes visible, though I couldn’t make out what they were, so like a golfer teeing up one practice shot after another, I kept whacking away until all the items heaped up within reach.

Fallen leaves in various stages of disintegration from a Money Tree that had lived on top of the filing cabinet for years. The Pachira aquatica prospered my creative life until it grew spindly and tall. Repotted and relocated to another room, it no longer thrived.

A Palm Pilot that served as my right hand in the nineties and early aughts: it was my PDA (Personal Data Assistant) after all, with it’s quaint stylus: address book, daily list-maker and calendar. It met its demise not long after the Iphone debuted in 2007.  The sueded protective case is held together with carpet tape, much like my current Iphone case is held together by rubber bands. My Palm Pilot has a sweet heft in the hand, and holds mysteries of folly and wisdom: for several years I used it in place of a paper journal. No longer retrievable, the mysteries remain.

A small framed photograph of the sun rising over Mt. Mandagni (Fire Mountain) that I took during a1991 pilgrimage to Gurudev Siddha Peeth in Ganeshpuri. At that time it was not  unusual for me to be up at sunrise. The first Persian Gulf War began while I was there. On this trip I received the sole personal verbal command from my Guru: “Take rest.” A command I have practiced to great benefit from many angles, from the most literal to the probably fantastical over the years since then.

Three Perelandra Nature Cards carrying the following quite relevant “answers” to current life situations as well as to some long-forgotten questions:

The first, partly encrusted with something brown and unidentifiable, reads: Empathy – Moving forward with care.

The second lightly stained card reads: Balance in Partnership – The focus on the elements of one’s partnership with nature.

The third card, hardly discolored, reads: Woven Oneness – The serenity, softness and inner peace of a parent who is at one with his/her child. Supporter, teacher, nurturer.

The real treasure here is that time has collapsed in this odd collection of forgotten objects, these particulars, and pulled “me” right along with it. And so these objects are not the stuff of nostalgia-only, but speak to and act on the present moment. 

So whether your neglected corners are literal or metaphorical, keep your hands and heart open.

Stories to heal what ails me, what ails America

Life events, aka Reality, continuously weaves surprising plot twists and characters into my preferred story about my life. Pops or induces slow leaks in my inflated views of myself, nudging or hurtling me towards the Real. Deprives me of false hope and false comfort.  So it goes with America’s stories as well. Whose precious and difficult story are you willing to hear, bear, receive, and hold?

 

Sara’s story: the idealized and the real

In my preferred telling, the Main Character is selfless, empathic, honest, fair and equitable, and trustworthy. To claim these virtues as parts of myself is to claim some hard-earned wisdom. To claim that is the whole of who I am is to idealize myself, to leave aside my limitations and the work I have yet to do, to flatten myself into a paper doll. Because I also can and do fail to even consider another’s needs; steel myself against feeling another’s turmoil or suffering; deliberately ignore, skirt or disguise what I understand to be true; play God; fail to follow through on a commitment. I become a human, dimensional, interesting Protagonista when I invite all this into my story.

The problem is not that I have ideals and wisdom that I aspire to live into. Nor is the problem that I fall prey to quite human limitations. The actual difficulty is when I take a partial view of myself as the whole. Not a believable character, but one I maintain by default whenever I fail to notice what I am doing. Or when I take my story as Everyone Else’s Story.

 

Once I notice what I am doing, living into these questions helps me:

  • What story, whose story am I telling?
  • Who are the heroines, the allies, the enemies?
  • What drives the action?
  • Who and what am I leaving out, filling in, emphasizing, dismissing?
  • What pattern of my lineage or culture am I continuing to act out or react against?
  • How am I responsible, and how do I act on on that?

 

Reflection – Ask yourself

How do I appear in my own story?

Who and what am I including?

Who and what am I leaving out?

The shattering of an idealized America

We live in raucous times, pitting our stories against one another. Heroines, allies and enemies are shaped by where and when we were born, into what circumstances, with what skin color, with what religious belief, with what expectations, with what gifts and burdens of history – and countless other influences.

From all around and within us our many and varied stories resound with the thunderous cracks of shattered dreams, the heavy sighs of disappointed expectations, and piercing cries for justice. We are challenged to separate out the many actual injustices from the collapse of our idealized stories of ourselves – and most especially how our stories are supposed to end, our partial stories of others, and our partial versions of America itself.

To draw on Khalil Gibran’s potent words – we are in an agony of pain as the shells that enclose our understanding, our precious and difficult stories, break one after another. Until such time as we each, in our own way, are willing to hold the pain of one another’s stories, even the pain of someone who we have written in as an enemy in our  own.

CHALLENGE: Whose precious and difficult story are you willing to hear, bear, receive, and hold?

How big a story treasury are you willing to risk becoming?


Banner photo: Lend a Hand, acrylic by Linda Carmel, Hillsborough Gallery Of Arts, Hillsborough, North Carolina

A Who-Is meets the Caterpillar

 “Who are you?” said the Caterpillar

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,  Lewis Carroll

 

Who I believe myself to be

I have been captivated by this question since Alice’s Adventures were first read aloud to me as a kid: “Whooooooo are youuuuuuuuuu?”

Here’s how I might answer the Caterpillar. Most days there is a Who-Is who gets pissed off when I am interrupted, a Who-Is who calms when my cat curls up in my lap, and a Who-Is who avoids looking too closely in the mirror when I wake up in the morning. I trust these parts of me are always somewhere in the room of my Life, even when the proper stimulus has not provoked them to appear. These are things that I think I know about who I am.

It is only practice that has me look more deeply, to see their stories.

The Interrupted One tells this story:

Whatever it is I am doing is important, more important than answering the phone, the door, a question, a request, a demand, an urgency. It’s about getting this thing, whatever it is, done. It’s also about maintaining my preferred feeling-state: the pleasure I have from completion; the nourishment I receive from absorption in my work, in the moment; feelings of usefulness and worth. And avoiding the discomfort, anxiety, even panic, at leaving something unfinished, hanging in mid-air.

Sometimes there is wisdom in turning my back on the interruption. What I am doing actually is more important than the interruption. At other times my task-persistence is a limitation that keeps me from connecting with a real need, a real movement of life. We could call this limitation habit, or compulsion, or even denial. It binds me, and has had some some harmful consequences for the people in my life. Because…

The Interrupted One’s story conveys limitations and wisdom both

What I truly cannot bear is the disruption to my sense of self, my very continuity, which so much of the time hitches a ride on my tasks, activities, and feeling-states, the very idea that I have a self, or am a self.  If I stop, I will go out like a candle flame in a breeze of the unknown. Everything I identify as myself disappears. The “I” disappears. Annihilation is complete.

This story is mixed and mixed up. It carries my neuroses, my personality difficulties. It carries my female lineage, with its theme of abandonment. Those are limitations. This story also bears the wisdom of existential truths:

I am a do-er, a feeler, a thinker, a relational being.

I am a concealer and magician – who makes parts of myself appear and disappear.

I – and the world I live in remain full of mysteries – some of which will be revealed and become known to me, new Who-Ises to be invited in. 

Some of the mysteries, “interruptions” like suffering and death, will remain unsolvable.

And I remain a being of Mystery that, when I remember it, I can approach only as I approach the Great Kindness, with awe and gratitude.

Make room for the Problem-Solver!

There is another Who-Is that gets into the mix: My Problem-solver.

She shadows the one who invites everything in,  wanting to – oh, just clean up the parts of me that show up, make them a little more presentable – or, as my healer once said to me – keep them in the entrance hall, and never quite let them into the house without a shower and a clean set of clothes.

The Problem-Solver also sees the Unknown as an enemy, so she keeps pushing me to discover more about myself or about puzzling or horrifying aspects of Life – wisdom, there. Her limitation: she doesn’t know when to stop. She does not recognize her powerlessness when she is up against the unsolvable, or up against the Great Kindness.

I arrive at a true answer to the Caterpillar as I invite them all in

So, Problem-solver, welcome, please come in.

The Interrupted One, come in.

The Concealer and Magician be welcome here.

Come in all of you, with your stories about who I believe myself to be.

And as I stay with this dance of acceptance and change in this way, I may lose my ready answers to the Caterpillar’s question. But  the Great Goodness has my back, helps me to be in my life just as it is, and to change what I need to change.

 

Bless the world with your practice

Bless the world with your practice

Whatever it is that you practice, do you pause to consider your intention? to direct your heart?

Whenever  you practice, recognize that it benefits the world, not just you personally.

Recognize that your practice simultaneously uplifts you and other humans and living beings.

Recognize that your practice simultaneously nourishes your soul and the Soul of the World.

Strengthen the healing and awakening power of your practice for the greater good by bringing greater consciousness, choice, and precision to your intention.

Then open your being and let it fly.

Bless yourself and the world with your practice.

 

Pardes

by Sara Eisenberg

 

Standing plain, cupped,

bending barely audible lunar winds towards You,

wedded and bedded,

drawing out each fine, twisted silken thread.

Say us together, a single illumined word.


 

For more on Blessing: https://alifeofpractice.com/daily-practices/a-blessing-habit/

For more poetry: https://alifeofpractice.com/musings/transition-and-mischief-makers/

https://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/women-friends-come-bearing-gifts/

https://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/still-life-with-cat-2/

How a seeker of justice weds the troubled human

How can we each use our life of practice to wed the seeker of justice with the troubled and imperfect humans we are: healed and healing, awakened and awakening?

This is tricky territory. On the one hand, we want to serve the world, not serve our wounding or neuroses. This requires us to turn deeply inward to inquire into our personal reality and the origins of our motivation. On the other hand we want to engage deeply with the world: if we wait until we are completely pure of heart before we act, we will remain forever immobile – and useless.

We do our best to run and return between the inward and outward journeys, bringing the wisdom of each to the other, and wrestling with the limitations of each. We could say we engage in each aspect of this work for the sake of the other.

From the front lines of this tricky territory

This week, I find myself in a passel of trouble. Troubled by one violent act upon another. Troubled by my own reactions. Broken-hearted  over the killing of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl, as she was walking in the neighborhood near her mosque in Reston, Virginia. The man under arrest for the killing is only five years older, barely an adult himself. From El Salvador. Did he flee gang violence there?

Broken-hearted, yet I have trouble remembering her name. If I am so heartbroken, why hasn’t her name engraved itself on my memory? But I look up the meaning of Nabra, and listen to the pronunciation, “Nehbarrah.” Google translates it as “tone.” I wonder about the Arabic nuances, and what her family was intending when they gave her this name. Last night I dreamed that she and I were talking quietly and intimately in the corner of a room – or maybe it was one of her three younger sisters.

What is it about Nabra among all the others murdered or maimed? Innocence? Sacrilege? Is it that she is the same age as my grandson, who was raised mostly ignorant of his Jewishness and is about to go off to college where others may see him only as a Jew?  A news article reported that Nabra had tripped over her abaya, a garment she had borrowed for the late-night Ramadan prayers because she rarely wore one.

I am equally troubled by the stark contrast with my response to the shooting of Republican congressmen just a few days before. I am more shocked at myself  than at the event. I am sanguine, cold: well-what-did-you-expect, well-now-you-know, well-y’all-invited-it. I am ashamed that my emotional reaction insists on being what it is.

Inquiring within

I do recognize this pattern in myself, how I am drawn to the protection, the defense of those who have no voice, no place, how I am repelled by the mis-uses and abuses of power. And how that is mixed up with  my own neuroses/wounding. I have, over the years, untangled many knotty threads to begin to claim my own voice and my own place. Enough so that I can sigh and say, well, there it is again. Enough so that I can begin serving more than my own wounding.

Then I have to remember another potent pattern that is active here – a certain way that I steel myself, withhold myself from life, from the moments that are especially dicey, aka life-threatening for me. I wrote about this “held-back goodness of the heart” some months ago, about the nuances to my withholding, each supported by a faulty assumption. Meanwhile, I remind myself here again. Goodness – goodness itself is unchanging. It doesn’t vary in quality or go bad, like those food storage experiments lingering at the back of the fridge. It’s not “my” goodness, but the Goodness of Reality of which I partake, of which I am made. The Goodness of which Nabra was made. The Goodness of which even her killer is made. The Goodness of which even congressmen whose behavior I abhor are made.

Saving my sanity

It is only throwing all this up against the Radical Oneness that saves my sanity and gifts me with clearer seeing, a bit more choice and courage. A bit more capacity to be in relationship with what is – so I am less and less trying to save myself from my own terrors and actually capable of serving.

By naming my feelings, even the shameful ones, I have given them a place. This does not mean that I have either solved or dissolved my conflicting feelings. Nor am I absolved from acting. I can and must choose from the abundant opportunities life offers me to show up, to protest, to act locally, to pray globally.

It is a great goodness to allow myself to sorrow still for my own childhood difficulties even as I sorrow for Nabra, even as I work to separate out these streams of sorrow.

And I must continue to wrestle with my own privilege – the privilege of a material security in which I can fall prey to the terrors of psychological life-threat, when so many humans are in urgent, immanent, physical danger of violence and death.

Pragmatically, materially speaking, we need all the wisdom we can access, and all the wholeness we can muster, to meet life.

From a spiritual standpoint, we each are born into this world to bend the arc in a particular way: that particular way of bending that we are born for, born to, heals our soul, and heals the world. Inseparably. Simultaneously. The very same life.

May we each succeed gloriously: for the sake of our loved ones, for the sake of those we serve in our personal and professional lives, for the sake of the civic body and our common good, for the sake of the earth.

“I can’t see!”  How habit blindfolds us!

Habit is an effective blindfold: it keeps me from seeing what is there, and directs me away from my own responsibility.

I pulled up short behind the SUV as we approached the intersection with a small side street. It looked as if the driver was about to make a right turn without having signaled. Immediately I reacted with irritation, one that I automatically generalized to the whole category of “drivers of SUVs.” A moment later I saw there was a compact Honda (same model as I was driving) in front of the SUV who was actually making the turn.

Initially, I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see what was actually happening, so I reconstituted a dried out old story and slapped it on the moment, then reacted to it. The dried-out story was colored by my prejudices against outsized vehicles that obscure the road ahead and engage in otherwise obnoxious-to-me road behaviors. In short, thoughtless road hogs. Even though some of my best friends drive SUVs.

I was reminded of another foundational personal experience of not-seeing.

I had gone to “see” a musical, and paid a pretty penny for a decent theatre seat. Through the entire performance, I found myself leaning to one side or the other, trying to see around the large body blocking my view of the stage. I found myself muttering, “I can’t see! I can’t see!” Until at one point I almost laughed out loud as I realized that most certainly I could see! I could see a large, stolid body and a very partial view of the stage. It just wasn’t what I wanted to see. Or what I thought was fair for the ticket price.

Blame and responsibility

So today’s driving experience demonstrated to me how much more work I have to do to take personal responsibility – how I can go all knee-jerky and immediately look for someone or something to blame when things don’t go the way I want.

As I follow the news, this distinction between blame and responsibility is actually one of my pet peeves. Blame is liberally dispensed by pundits of all political leanings. Responsibility is rarely assigned via sound and nuanced analysis of complexity, and seldom assumed by anyone. The common “I am sorries,”  e.g. “I am sorry I called her a b- – – -,” “I am sorry I used the n word”? To me these “apologies” translate only as “I am sorry I got caught and called out for saying what I think.”

Here are a few behaviors  that in my book break the habit of blame and move me along to take responsibility:

  • Self-examination.
  • Taking in the damage I have done.
  • Regret – and depending on the scale of the hurt, remorse.
  • Some meaningful move to repair any damage to the injured party.
  • Resolve to not repeat the behavior.
  • Repeat all the above steps as needed.

Admittedly, there are more substantive examples of my casting blame that are of greater consequence to the people in my life, but any moment is a good moment to come awake, even if it’s “just” behind the wheel of a car.


More on habit: https://alifeofpractice.com/daily-practices/thankyou/

A night of small revelations

I was twelve when Cecil B. DeMille’s technicolor biblical spectacle left me wide-eyed in my neighborhood movie theatre: The Ten Commandments!  Last night I was in synagogue with family in Durham, North Carolina marking the Giving of Torah to the Jewish people: a night of small, nourishing and human-scale revelations.

The evening began with a group of Muslim guests and their imam standing with us around a Torah as the rabbi lovingly spoke about the centrality and holiness of the scroll. He described how the parchment is prepared, and the great care with which the writing is done. For example, should the scribe make an error in the writing of God’s name, that whole section of parchment must be unstitched from its neighbors. The text must be completely rewritten – without error – and then restitched in place.

I had never heard this bit before – about the unstitching, the rewriting, the restitching. At the same time, I was struck by the fact that the stories themselves are full of human error, human imperfections.

The Torah scroll unfolds the ultimate error-ridden, and unfinished, story. It opens with our common origins, the Creation, then traces the early generations of humankind who, within a matter of a few pages are banished from paradise to the labors of childbirth and working the land. We soon fall into envy, murder, and drunkenness. After the Flood God starts over. More generations of ill-will, jealousies and betrayals of one another and God. The Jewish people are enslaved, taken out of Egypt, receive a collective revelation – Torah, wander in the wilderness under the protection of God’s Cloud, and with Moses’ leadership. The scroll ends as God directs Moses to ascend Mt. Nebo to die, in view of the land he will never enter. Nor do we in the Biblical telling. It’s back to the beginning for us too.

Nevertheless, we learn, it is God’s nature to give, and humankind’s to receive.

And on the night of Shavuot, we receive by grappling with texts late into the evening.

We consider the power of the very letters and white spaces of the Torah scroll. We discuss commentaries from a half dozen sources on the meaning and power of blessing. We puzzle in discomfort over a contemporary Israeli poem suggesting that Torah itself will move on, will actually leave us. We wrestle with passages from the deeply mystical text of the Zohar that warn us not to take the stories as anything but garments which clothe the ultimately unknowable Mystery of God, yet also instruct us how to live and care for one another and the world.

I neither saw thunder nor heard lightening, as the Jewish people are said to have done at Sinai. No life-changing insight into myself or my own surely numerous errors of perception, belief, behavior.

But some dew settled on me, some nourishment, much fellowship, laughter, argument, provocation. For which I give thanks.


The banner image, Egg World,was painted by my dear friend Kristine Rasmussen, who knew how to delight in life better than most of us.