Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yesod, the foundation

It's the time to count the Omer again, a practice I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in through listening to the words of Rabbi Rachel Barenblat over at her blog, The Velveteen Rabbi. This week she talks about yesod, a sephirot which I am actually familiar with from my Wiccan days. Seen overlaid on a body, yesod sits firmly on the genitals. On the Tree of Life it is near, but not at, the roots. It is the foundation.

See the rocks up there? That's how you make a foundation. You put the larger one at the bottom. Ask any kindergartener what happens if you put the smaller block at the bottom, and they will explain that the tower falls down. In order to have any growth that is stable, your foundation must be firm, wide, and ready to bear any load. That is doubly true on a religious and spiritual level, in my opinion.

Rabbi Rachel asks what kind of foundation are we building for ourselves, with our personhood, our family, our neighborhood, our community, our country? Each foundation is separate, and yet inseparable from the others. It's our job to find the ways they connect and ensure that one foundation doesn't crack any of the others.

I'm struggling with foundation building right now. My graduation from seminary is just a few days away, and my ordination as well. My original "chosen family" is splitting up, and Gray and sis and I, with our kids, are moving to a new house a few miles away. Church has been a little on the stressful side as we try to figure out how to handle Vacation Bible School, next year's Sunday School curriculum, our vacant Vice Moderator position, and a few other interesting quirks.

I'm also dealing with a break in my personal foundation: my ankle. It isn't much in the grand scheme of things... I had the removable cast on for 7 weeks and now it's off and though I'm limping, I'm getting around pretty well. Still, it has affected me in a lot of ways. I am physically off balance, and have been for 2 months almost, but beyond that I am also emotionally off balance. The stress of everything on top of the ankle has just been intense and very humbling and belittling. I have felt helpless, and finding ways to claw out of that deep hole has been difficult. I'm lucky that I have family so willing to help and hold onto me in the dark times.

Yesod is also a sephirot of bridge building, and that's something I want to do in my ministry. I see myself as a bridge between the Abrahamic faiths and the pagan and indigenous ones. I am comfortable in both spheres, and feel no strong need to pick one over the other. This has surprised me, because I've been so very pagan for so many years, but I am trying to go with the flow. This is a building of my own foundations, and I see a need to have one that acts as a bridge, a foundation spanning both sides of this religious chasm.

I am humbled... and learning. I hope never to stop.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hod - Counting the Omer

Submission and splendor is the topic of this week's moment to count the Omer, according to the Velveteen Rabbi. It's hard to think of these two things right now, as late last night I got told I have to wait yet a few more days to get my cast off. I was angry, frustrated, and upset. I wasn't finding it in myself to submit to the necessary waiting. Perhaps the extra few days is needed for my healing, after all, and the moving of appointments was for my own health as well as someone else's emergency surgery. Still, it was hard to accept. Giving in to the waiting feels very close to giving up, and I'm not the type to give up so easily, even if I sometimes stomp my metaphorical foot and threaten to do it. I had originally planned an afternoon out with sis today, with my OS appointment then lunch, then her appointment as well. With my appointment cancelled, it seemed our day would be a bust, but she decided heck with it, we were going to have fun anyhow. She's so good to me!

So I am counting my moments that I've been grateful to her. She's taken care of me so well while I've been stuck in bed, and then put up with my tagging along in zippy carts at the grocery store once I was able to be up and about. She's brought me drinks, listened to me whine and complain, and given me hugs. In learning to accept that I'm not in control of this situation in the least, I've been given the opportunity to be incredibly grateful to an amazing friend. I don't think I would have survived the last six weeks without her input and support. Sis understands where others may not, because she was on bed rest for so long with the twins. She remembers it, vividly, and how helpless and frustrated she felt. It's a bit scary being on the opposite side of this bed rest thing, but at least I'm getting to do it with someone who has such intimate experience with it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Netzach - Endurance

According to Rabbi Rachel Barenblat over on her blog, netzach means endurance. This is week four of counting the Omer, and the reminder to endure comes half way through the seven weeks of the process. It seems to be a reminder to keep up the practice despite the fact that you're probably looking at your life and considering how many other "important" things you could be doing.

Really, this is what endurance is. When you're in pain, when you are grieving, when the world is going to hell around you, people understand and are there for you. They hold you, help you, and give you what you need to continue on. Those "big ticket" times are really rough... but in a lot of ways not nearly as rough as the smaller things.

I'm sitting here in my bed, distraught over the fact that our boytwin's IEP meeting happens to be next Monday... right when I was supposed to be in getting my xray to see if I could get out of this Transformer boot. I have to reschedule my appointment because, believe me, it's easier to reschedule with a surgeon than with teachers. I don't want to reschedule, though! I don't want to endure this stupid boot another minute! I want out of it NOW!

And there's that endurance. It's hard for other people to sympathize over little things like that. After all, Gray has to go to this meeting at the school, and so does sis. While they'd both love to see me out of my boot, our kids are more important than a non-emergency procedure that can easily wait another week without causing any harm. And they're right! So I have to find it within me to endure. I'm not going to get a ton of sympathy or help to endure this one, because it's technically an easy one. I'm not in pain, nothing bad is going to happen, etc.

The very act of waiting on this leg to heal has been an act of endurance. My family has been incredible, even the kids, in helping me get through this very frustrating time. They've put up with a lot of attitude from me, some very bad days, a few good days, and they haven't strayed from my side at all. I'm a very lucky lady to have so many people willing to help me along. It's as if the gods decided that I needed to have my endurance tested, but not TOO much.

The power to overcome this obstacle (be it the extra wait time for my xray, or the broken ankle itself) is within me. I can even ask for help, and I almost always receive it. Still, the final endurance is my own. That which does not kill us makes us stronger!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I don't usually have vivid dreams. Oh, I do dream, but it's not often that I recall more than a few tidbits from them. They're often very fragmented, and most of the time I remember only fleeting emotions. The past week or so has been quite the opposite, though. I've been having incredibly vivid dreams, ones that are both bizarre and strangely alluring. I don't mind having colorful dreams, and I enjoy being able to wake up and remember big chunks of them.

This particular rush of dreams, though, has been odd even for me. I am not a big "sex dream" kind of person. I don't recall having dreams of that type since I was a teen, in fact. Most of the time, if there is coupling in my dreams, it becomes the "fade to the fireplace" type where you know what happened but you don't actually see it. This is not the case this week. At all. Wow.

First, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not generally a Kevin McKidd kind of gal. He's handsome enough, but he's really not my type. I'm more interested in his bad-boy friend from the series Rome (that'd be Pullo for those who haven't seen the show). I like dark hair, short legs, stocky built men with tight butts. Kevin McKidd doesn't fit any of those criteria. And yet he has played a very  major part in some incredibly torrid sex scenes in my dreams of late. I have no idea what this means. LOL!

Basically, he shows up in my dream in the midst of something complex and it becomes a "can't get together because of X" sort of thing. We resist the temptation until all hell breaks loose, at which point we fall together and the torrid sex scene comes into play. Surprisingly, I have been very participatory in these dreams (most of the time with vivid dreams, I'm kind of third person even if I'm active in the dream), and they have been very ... active dreams. I have no idea why it's McKidd who shows up, either, and it isn't him in character... it's McKidd the actor.

So after these scenes, we skitter off as if we're in some kind of spy novel (maybe we are... I don't remember all the small details) and meet up with a woman. At some point I trade in McKidd for the chick, which becomes another torrid scene. Later on, I trade sex for a favor to keep me and the woman safe from some inexplicable harm.

I've had similar type dreams for a few nights running, now. It's extremely odd. They're not repeats, although if I were critiquing it as writing I'd say it was rather plagiaristic. Still, at least I'm involved in them and not just sitting and watching them. I wonder what this says about me!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Time for Self

I have been neglecting my meditation practices during my healing time from the broken ankle. I'm not sure why, since I have had ample time to meditate while laying in bed alone. Perhaps I have not wanted to focus enough to maintain a proper meditative frame of mind. I am not really sure, but I am aware that I've been avoiding it.

This morning I made time for meditation. It wasn't a lot, only about 15 minutes or so. Still, it was something, and I think that's what counts. It wasn't one of my best meditations, either. I lay down with my leg up, and had decided to meditate on my blessings because I've been down of late and I thought thinking on the good things would help me out. Every time I started to drop into a truly meditative head space, the dogs would begin barking. The sound would jolt me out of the meditative framework, and I'd have to start all over again. Eventually, after about 15 minutes of this, I gave up. I decided that it wasn't serving the right purpose and was instead building up my frustration with the dogs. Still, I did take the time, and I did achieve a few quiet minutes of meditative state. I consider it a good thing that I found both the presence of mind and the strength of character to realize it was appropriate to stop forcing the meditation and move on with my day.

Even those few minutes seem to have improved my though processes. I was calmer during breakfast, ate slowly and mindfully, and had an interesting discussion with Gray. I am feeling more smooth today, and much less rough around the edges. I've even returned to the quiet joy of listening to meditation music on Pandora while journaling, something I did a lot of prior to my accident.

Yesterday was a bad day for leg pain, probably due to a number of factors. I'd squeezed my bad foot into a shoe for a few minutes while I looked at myself in robe and stole, the outfit I will be wearing for my ordination. Add to that the pouring rain that came down for two days straight, and I think it adds up to fatigue and minor pain in my ankle. I spent yesterday with the leg up, icing and resting it as suggested, and am feeling better (if still a bit tender) today.

Due to being laid up, I decided to work on transportation. I think I have it all down pat now, and will be purchasing tickets tomorrow. I leave New Hampshire on June 8th at gawd-awful'o'clock in the morning, and arrive in NYC by about 9am. I then have approximately 3 hours to get to Penn Station (easy enough to do, though I'll probably get lunch on the way) where I catch a noonish train to our retreat center. I'll be at the retreat until late afternoon on the 10th, when I will take either train or bus back to NYC, to spend the next 2 nights with my friend S. On the 12th, I will get up, meet up with family who are coming into the city for my ordination, and then will head off to lunch and the church. At 2:30pm or so, I will be ordained, in front of a thousand or so people. After all the celebrations are over, I will head home with family in the van.

Wow... It's so close! In 38 days, I will be an ordained minister.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tiferet, Merciful Beauty and Balance

As we start the third week of counting the Omer, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat talks about tiferet, the sefira of beauty, balance, and mercy. When I was reading her journal this morning, I immediately thought of the image you see to the left, Leonardo DaVinci's Vitruvian Man. It is DaVinci's vioew of the balance of mankind. It's a beautiful image, and it has become an iconic picture.

I have been thinking a lot about mercy and balance lately. There is a great imbalance in things at home right now, and no way to correct that balance until we get into our new home. We're in a holding pattern until that time. Still, we're here, and we need to deal with living here, for now. This means finding balance in an unbalanced situation. Difficult but not impossible.

I think right now what I need most is to find both mercy and beauty in and for myself. Having a broken ankle has left me feeling helpless, angry, frustrated, useless... Added to the other stresses in the house, that is a recipe for bad things to happen.

I'm trying to take time every day for prayer. You would think that would be easy, considering I'm sitting most of the day with no way to go galavanting around the way I usually do. I think the problem is more that I'm forcing myself to be busy inside, filling my hours with mindless things that take me away from the four walls of my room and the oppressive feeling within the house. It's hard to bring myself back into the here and now, so that I can focus on prayer and meditation. It's too easy to allow myself to be distracted by FaceBook or Gray's music or the dogs barking outside. Still, it's important to make that space, that time, to be with myself. That is a part of being merciful to myself, I believe. If I can't show myself mercy, how can I show mercy to others?

The other side of that (the balance part) is that I can't get so caught up in "woe is me" that I lose sight of the joys and beauty of my life. Yes, I have a broken ankle, and yes it has a real impact on my life. On the other hand, I didn't do any major damage and am healing up well, I can walk with my aircast on, and I am able to do much of what I was doing before my accident. Yes I'm hurt, yes it slows me down, and no I don't want to use it as an excuse. I can say, "I can't serve at the bean supper on Saturday because I can't stand that long due to my ankle," because it's appropriate to say so. What I can't say, is, "I can't do anything because of this stupid ankle!" That's just not true.

Beauty is tough. I don't feel beautiful with the Transformer Boot on my leg. I don't feel beautiful when I am limping along with a funny gait. Of course, there's more to beauty than just what's on the outside. The inside isn't too pretty right now, either, because of how I've been feeling. I've been down on myself about "all the things I can't do" instead of focusing on the things I CAN do. Time to stop that, and time to find the beauty around me.

Last night, I stood in front of the mirror in my stole, my borrowed robe (thank you, Pastor Alison!), and my flat shoes deemed acceptable by the OS and family. I didn't stress over the fact that I wasn't in heels; I rejoiced in the fact that I looked and felt wonderful. As I said to friends, I felt rather like a fairy princess, although I'm not sure how appropriate that is for someone about to be ordained. Still... I am accepting my moment of beauty, and I'm holding onto it. I may need a cane going down the aisle at ordination, but I had planned on taking my owl staff anyhow, and I proved last night that I can use it just fine in that way.

All worthwhile things are born in pain, even if only a little. I think the pain makes them more beautiful for us, sometimes.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden is dead.

Yes, he's dead.

People have hailed him as the most notorious terrorist ever. He's been called pure evil. He purportedly led extremists to bomb the Twin Towers, bringing about the death of thousands of people. People ran into the streets last night, chanting USA and other things. Newspapers came out saying, "Rot in Hell" and other headlines of similar ilk.

I am uncomfortable with all of this. I'm not upset that bin Laden is dead. Regardless of anything else, he was a very bad man, and frankly deserved to come face to face with his God in order to explain his actions. However, I don't think it's a moment for celebration. Not at all.

This is a moment for grief. This is a moment for solace, and maybe for closure for some. This is not a moment for celebration.

In the past 24 hours I have heard people I know saying he got what he deserved, shouting that we should have tortured and maimed him, that we should have done horrible things to his wives... Some of these same people are horrified that I raise, kill, and process my own chickens because it's cruel. I am having a really hard time understanding those two points as coming from a single person.

I saw news posts of people partying in Manhattan and in DC, shouting and laughing and burning pictures of bin Laden. It reminded me, terribly, of the extremists in the Muslim and Arab lands, who burned our flag and cheered and celebrated upon seeing the Twin Towers go down. I'll admit, I felt just as sick watching the people in our country celebrate, as I was when the extremists did it. It's not right.

I am not sad that he's gone. I think it's right that he has moved on, and I trust that his God will take care of him in whatever manner is necessary. I am not happy that he's dead, either, though. We have given up a known for an unknown. We have killed a man for killing our men. I'm not certain I'm okay with that. I'd be a lot happier if a trial had happened.

Blessed Hecate, TriFold Mistress of the Dark Times,
Tonight is your night. Tonight is the night you rule, and hold sway.
See that Osama reaches the place that he needs to be. 
Take word to those whose lives he ended, American and Muslim alike, and let them know it is over.
Let there be no celebration over death; this is not a happy time.
Instead, let there be sober thought, fervent prayers, and new hope.
Be not a jailer to his tortured soul, but only convey him to his place of justice.
He has much to account for, and I weep for that, and for all those he harmed.
Let my tears be the offering I make to you,
My Dark Lady, my beautiful one.
So be it.
                      - Allyson Szabo, May 2, 2011