At various times in my life, I’ve participated in spiritual services and traditions – perhaps, a manner of seeking and trying to find what touches my heart and what, ultimately, opens my heart. Curious about beliefs and practices, I’ve ended up adding some of the things I’ve learned to my own personal practice to help ground myself, feel more compassion, and be open to the gifts of the universe.
As I return from a Hebrew Chanting Circle today, I am very much aware of how at peace I feel. A simple hour out of my day to gather with a group of women and combine our voices to create a very special energy makes a big difference.
For those who have never done chanting, according to The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love by Rabbi Shefa Gold, a chant is “a few short words – repeated with passion and intention – that can unlock treasure upon treasure of healing, wisdom and love.”
Even though we meet at the local temple in Woodstock, out of a group of 7-10 women, only three of them are Jewish. I am married to a non-practicing Jew so that’s the closet I get to being Jewish. The rest of the women are coming for spiritual community and to create peace that goes inward and radiates outward.
When I was invited to join the group, I said “yes” because I am in to saying “yes” to new things. Just try it, Ann. So, I did. And, just as I found with Buddhist, Hindu, and Native American practices – there was a peace and joy that filled me. So much alike no matter what the flavor. So full of beauty and love.
The chants we are using come from Rabbi Shefa Gold, who is a leader in ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. According to her website, “she composes and perform spiritual music, has produced ten albums, and her liturgies have been published in several new prayerbooks.”
After reading more, I realized why Rabbi Shefa’s chants and practices were touching me so. Her bio goes on to say that “By combining her grounding in Judaism with a background in Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, and Native American spiritual traditions, Rabbi Shefa is uniquely qualified as a spiritual bridge celebrating the shared path of devotion.” She teaches the meditative practice of chant that “fully engages the body, heart, and mind, and facilitates healing and expansion of consciousness.”
So, in a world full of arguments about who is right and who is wrong, who can worship this or that, what team should win the Super Bowl, what somebody should have done, and so on and so forth… spending an hour of my day today with a group of women who are celebrating our likenesses versus our differences, our desire to bring together rather than pull apart… was a blessing.
So, if your days are way too full, if you can’t get away from technology, if work is something you do for more hours than you care to and you aren’t sure what a day off looks like… I want to encourage you to stop and take some time. Do whatever it is that helps you settle within and comfort yourself. Whatever you need to return to will reap the rewards of your break and, so will you.
Check out one of my favorite chants – Gratefulness: Odach. Let the vibration work its magic and then quietly sit with eyes closed, focused on your heart.
Just do it. And even if you never do a Hebrew chant again or need to find another practice, then do that.
But, do something for you that helps you communicate with your soul. Wow, you’ll see – it could change the world.
“Chant is a path for all of us who lead with our hearts, who are determined to seek out the truth that is buried deep beneath the ground of our lives, and who have made a commitment to live that truth, from moment to moment, breath to breath,
‘one little bit at a time.’”
—from the Introduction of The Magic of Hebrew Chant by Rabbi Shefa Gold
There are times when I didn’t think we’d make it past the first year or the second year or the third year or the tenth year.
There were times I wanted to run away from him or change the locks on the door when he went to the gym.
There were times when he said, “I am not the enemy.” But, I didn’t believe him because he felt like the enemy to me.
There were times when I felt I couldn’t do anything right to measure up to what I thought he expected of me, and there were times, I know, when he couldn’t do anything right, either.
Those times went on for much too long. It’s as if we waited so long to find each other and fell hard and fast… and, then, began to pick each other apart. Bit by bit. Day by day and year by year.
I’m not sure when there was a turnaround and if anything in particular precipitated it. Maybe we were just tired of being cross with each other. Maybe we were tired of having our BFF always be someone other than ourselves for each other.
But, we both changed and our relationship changed.
He actually was better with me when a long-term girlfriend relationship I had ended. He wasn’t jealous of the relationship, but from his vantage point, he felt as if I was constantly being taken advantage of. Maybe that made me seem weak with no backbone. He may have been right. I was beginning to feel that way, too.
I started to change when I felt appreciated. It made a huge difference. Doesn’t that make a difference to all of us?
And, now today, not only are we celebrating Groundhog’s Day, we are celebrating out twenty-first anniversary – not of wedded bliss, but of a real relationship revolution and evolution. And, it all feels complete.
I recently saw this writing by my friend, Terri St. Cloud of bone sigh arts. When I read it, tears welled up in my eyes. Why hadn’t we taken THIS vow when we got married back in 1995?
I ordered the print from Terri right away and it came just in time for me to share it with Bob. I told him, I’m taking this vow now – wish I’d been smarter years ago, but maybe this is what we both had to learn – to grow into. So thanks, Terri, for putting into words exactly what I needed to say:
“i will be mindful of the act of loving you
every day of my life.
i will not take you for granted,
but will keep my eyes open to the treasure
that you are,
allowing room for your individuality and
your own uniqueness.
i will not try to bend you to my ways,
but rather open myself to your ways as
being part of who you are.
i will embrace all of you.
the dark parts along with the light.
because, together, those parts create
the being that i love.
i will accept you,
respect you and admire you.
and if something comes between us
to make me stumble with this,
i will go to you and ask your help
with my struggle.
i will bring my challenges to you,
looking for your thoughts and support
and i will return that support to you freely.
when i’m hurt, i will believe in your love
for me, i will bring you my hurt, and together we
will grow from it and then put it aside.
i will share all of myself with you,
for i know to receive your entire heart,
you must have mine.
together, we will work,
we will play,
we will laugh,
we will grieve,
and we will find our way.
together we will live gratitude
together we will touch love.”
—Terri St. Cloud, a vow to my partner, bone sigh arts
Wishing you the best, the most love and healing you need in your life right now. I can almost promise you that if you go to Terri’s site, she’s already designed your feeling. She’s just like that.