All posts by sigal

Instead of setting goals, set optimal conditions

When I prepare to lead retreats and before we gather in groups or meet one on one,  I meditate on how to best create a loving and engaged learning community. I begin by reviewing past experiences to evaluate how to best set the conditions for meaningful and transformative work. Recently I read students’ reflections about working with me. They touched my heart. They read  like love letters with renewed hope, awareness and commitment to self love and care. I feel grateful to be able to contribute in this way to my students’ lives and I’m inspired by my students’ courage to open their hearts to themselves, each other, and the experience, and to bring their learning home to affect a sustainable difference in their lives.

I am glad to be able to create the optimal conditions with others to allow for learning, reflection, contemplation and transformation. And yet, no matter how profound the “ah ha” moments are or how clear are the insights, those “ah ha” seeds will take root and grow into our daily lives only if we set the conditions and environment right. The conditions along with the heartfelt intention to thrive will determine if the seed will flourish or die.

The biggest benefit of a concentrated experience like a retreat, aside from having fun, is having the time and guidance to learn from experiential methods. With the right guidance it can help us open to our authentic nature and our heart’s desire. Paired with the commitment to pursue our desires, it motivates us to discern and decide how to set the optimal conditions to successfully unfold the desires into our lives.

Where do we begin?

Knowing our heart’s desire is only the beginning. It points the way to loving self-care, giving proper attention, and cultivating nourishing behaviors and practices for the seeds to grow. Unless we listen to the call of the heart and commit to taking the steps and actions to fulfill it, it will be hard to affect change.

          Take small steps of self love and care on the mendful path

Remember why you are doing what you are doing and structure time for practices that support you living the lifestyle that supports living from your heart. Resolve to keep your commitments when resistance, negative thoughts, discomfort and forgetting arises. Be patient. It will take time to adjust and cultivate new habits. Make small, measurable and reachable expectations, endure and focus until you meet them and continue building on your success.

Use tools of remembering; write a Post-it note, write in your daily calendar, and write in a small scroll that you can wear in a Zigizen necklace with a daily affirmation close to your heart. Set a reminder alarm on your phone every hour or so to breath relaxing breaths for a minute and repeat the affirmation or simply breathe and settle into a moment of stillness.

Develop new supportive habits; I find that daily “refilling activities” are centering and helpful. I like taking walks, riding a bike, sitting in a sauna or a hot tub, listening to or reading inspiring thoughts, writing a gratitude list, and meditating into stillness for 10 minutes throughout the day. Also, resolving to participate in group activities to support you like yoga classes and inviting others to walk or meditate with you can be helpful and supportive.

May you remember your heart’s desire each day and allow the seeds of your intention grow and guide your life, and may the time and effort in supportive conditions blossom into what you desire in your life. May ease and contentment find you.

Mentoring individual and small groups 

Online meditation groups – let us know if you are interested

RESOURCES:

Zigizen Necklaces  Amazon.com

Hebrew and English chants, Rabbi Sigal’s CDs to support your practice

Paving a Mendful Path with Questions

How do you orient back to love, balance and peace? What do you do? Is there a special way you shepherd yourselves back to wholeness and kindness? What could help you find a mendful path in your life? Can you discern what calls you back to the home of contentment and peace, despite the disappointments and heart breaks? Is there anything that beacons you to begin anew with hope and passion in your heart?

By now, reading all these questions you may think: Rabbi, why are you asking so many questions, it’s  not Passover.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein

Questions are vehicles born of curiosity to carry us back home to wonder, peace, appreciation, contentment, innovation and joy. Some of the biggest discoveries and inventions in many fields of study and life happen after long periods of inquiry and contemplation. 

We pave a hopeful MENDFUL PATH as we open, realign, and balance our lives with what we love and with our hearts’ desire and purpose. We ask and consider what we and others love and need. We ask how can we help, serve, live more fully, bring more to life. We ask new and old questions and contemplate possible answers and responses.

Questions are essential in the process of mending and healing. So much so that I am thinking that maybe we should declare 2018  A YEAR OF QUESTIONS! To dedicate and focus our attention to opening to new possibilities, to ask new questions, to become unstuck and more free to explore. Asking, conversing, connecting, and more actively offering fresh ideas to solving core problems and see in new ways our lives and our world.

In Kabbalah, mindful mysticism for soul-centered living, we are invited to venture to the unknown and risk, yes risk by trusting in the mystery.  Kabbalah is a way to ask questions with curiosity seeing beyond the veil of what is known, into new fields of  possibilities within our souls, our lives, world and universe.

I invite you to explore the landscape of your soul and your life, and inspire your heart to occupy itself more fully from now and into the the new year. Join me for special retreat at Kripalu Center (October 17-19) where we will journey and learn together. We will share in learning and practicing mendful living methods with self-inquiry and self care.

May we be inspired to open our hearts and ask elucidating questions, be extra curious and open, contemplate possibilities in conversations with others, meditate, reflect, identify patterns, think and act mindfully, and experience new levels of healing and mending.

I wish you a wonderful time of discovery and falling in love with yourself and your life and all your beloveds and all the beauty and joy you can experience. 

Blessings, Rabbi Sigal

See when are the next Kripalu Retreats with Rabbi Sigal

Building a Shelter of Healing and Peace

We enter the gates of Sukkot tonight. The week long harvest holiday of thanksgiving. With the full moon rising into the cool evening air, we gather in the fragile and beautiful temporary huts (sukkah in Hebrew) to be together. With gratitude for what we have and share, this year we also enter Sukkot with a heaviness in our hearts. The horrific violence in Las Vegas has shaken us to our core. We keep in our hearts and prayers all those who have been hurt directly and indirectly by the shooting.

In tragic times like these we feel our vulnerability. Can you pause for a moment to feel your sadness and shock and notice how along with that arises a movement in the heart with the desire to heal and mend? Can you allow yourself to feel the co-arising of all these movements and feelings for a moment? How will we use those feelings as motivators to act and do more to mend and heal our hearts and our society? My hope and prayer is that it motivates us to collectively do more to keep the peace and share the love in any way we can.

Please  join us for meditation and study online and in person in Pennsylvania and at Kripalu Center. A  Mendful Path Meditation and learning is on going in Elkins Park.

You are invited to Kesher Shalom interactive gatherings.

May sukkat shalom, shelter of peace and healing spread over us and our world.

Together we build a sukkah of loving kindness and peace. Niveneh Sukkat hesed veshalom.
I wish you a joyful and safe holiday.

Blessings and Love, Rabbi Sigal

L’shanah Tovah

 

I would like to express my heartfelt wishes at this time of turning our gaze onto a New Jewish Year. 
May it be a sweet and healthy New Year. May the year 5778 be a mendful path that brings us more ease, contentment and delight. May we share in more peace and may tranquility and friendship reside in our communities. May we experience less conflict and more understanding. May our homes be filled with the love and kindness we enjoy and desire, every day and throughout the year.
L’shannah tovah u’metukah. 
Love and blessings, Rabbi Sigal

Who are we going to be?

thankful-for-kindness-generosity-appreciation-kindness“Where it’s hard to love, let’s love harder.” Van Jones
Feelings & opinions are expressed strongly. We are quickly losing our sense of decency and respect in this political climate where we stand in opposing positions and fight for what we believe is right. I am not skilled in politics, I am a rabbi, I listen to people’s hearts & stay attuned to what is whole and what is broken in our spirit and soul. I feel the acute hurt, despair, stress and pain felt by many.
The question is: who are we going to be? To be able to move forward as a civilized society and get where we want, we must listen and welcome all of us with kindness, patience, and we must, must keep destructive anger, blame and shame as methods of change and persuasion in check. 

Will we be able to exercise vigilance and actively work together to call all of us back to respect, civility and tolerance?
Can we pray together and remember our sea selves no matter what comes?
Can we hope and trust just a little? Can we remember that
generosity
appreciation  
kindness 
and dignity 
reside in our own hearts, and our hands, or no place at all? 

Can we remember that there are still beauty and love in the world for us to enjoy?
YES WE CAN!
Let’s go to the wells that nourish us, invite those with opposing views to come with us, and together drink deeply, talk, listen and mend.
I pray for peace dear friends. Peace and wellbeing for all.
Ose shalom bimromav hu yase shalom al- kulam.
Blessings and love, Rabbi Sigal

Retreat with Rabbi Sigal

Find New Passover Freedom

Spring welcomes us with sunshine and new colors. Life is infused with hope again. Passover is the holiday of Spring and freedom. It is also the holiday of new beginnings, asking questions and telling stories. It is time to come together and share with others. We eat unleavened bread (Matzah) as a reminder to let go of old “sticky” habits. Here are some Passover ideas to bring to Seder .Enjoy!

1. Ask New Questions
Although it is fun to sing the traditional four questions and do traditional things, many people become bored and tune out. To generate engaging discussions around the table try to ask new questions. What questions would you ask? What questions other have? For example: Name four highlights related to new beginnings in the last year? What are some of the experiences or events that are related to freedom and what are those related to oppression in the last year?

2. Put the Say in Say-der (Seder)
Hagadah, the book we read at the Seder, literally means to tell. This year try more telling and less reading. For example, use the the four cups of freedom to talk about the stages and kinds of freedom. The Hebrew name of the holiday Pesach, as pointed out to to us by a Hassidic Rabbi, can also be understood as related to telling. If we divide the word in to 2 words: Peh-sach, it means mouth-speaking/telling.
Give yourself the permission to leave the usual script and improvise on the many themes of the holiday.  Dare to be dramatic! For example, tell stories about your own life and talk about world events in the last year that relate to the themes of freedom and bondage. 

3. Becoming Less Sticky or Stuck
If Passover is the holiday of freedom and liberation, why is the food we eat is binding? With the awareness of sustainable and healthier lifestyle, our diet is also an expression of our choice to be more free. Some people are adapting a gluten free diet, which in my sensibility relates to the Passover theme of freedom and becoming less sticky.
We know now that some foods are “sticky” (hence called glue-ten) and cause inflammation. Over the years I have adopted a Passover diet rich in vegetables, fruits and protein and less grain. I especially try to consume less Matzah.

4. All are welcome – Kol Dich’fin
Kol dich’fin, in Aramaic means all are welcome. When we make plans for the seder each year we ask, who else can we invite? On this holiday of freedom we ask how can we be the force of good and share in our liberation? We count our blessings and extend our thanks by sharing an evening with people who we don’t know well, or people who are alone, had a hard year and can use the invitation to feel more free for one night.
We care and share with others with the tradition of kol dich’fin, all are welcome. We let people know there is always room at our table. Small gestures; opening our doors, sharing a meal with others, are actions to help heal and repair our world.

FDR’s Four Freedoms for Passover

Let’s begin with a question: 
What is the most reoccurring number at the Seder?
I begin with a question about numbers because the Seder is a night of questions, and also of numbers. We ask four questions, tell about the four children and drink four cups of wine. 
The four cups of wine at the Seder are the four stages of liberation:
1. becoming aware of oppression  2. opposing oppression 3. imagining alternatives  4. accepting personal and communal responsibility to act for freedom.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) in his 1941 state of the union address spoke of the four freedoms we should protect anywhere in the world.  They are: 
1. freedom of speech and expression 2. freedom from fear 3. freedom from want 4. freedom of religion. 

Passover1Passover(Pesach in Hebrew) is the holiday of freedom. Hag ha’chayrut! (Hag = holiday, Chayrut = freedom) 
The Seder is a celebration of freedom. We sit around the table and tell stories of oppression and liberation “as if we are coming out of Egypt.” In Hebrew Mitzrayyim literally means narrow places. 

Something New: May I suggest that instead of just blessing and drinking we use the occasion of drinking the four cups of wine to pause and bring to the table, literally in this case, a discussion about the four stages of libration and FDR’s four freedoms? What do the four freedoms mean to us today? How do we guard and express them? Which one is most important now, and why? 

Lastly, sharing a funny video about Seder. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. Watch and enjoy!
In light of the video a reminder.  We can eat vegetables (salad, potatoes) after we say the blessing of Karpas early in the Seder. It will be a more pleasant experience to all with some food.
I wish you a wonderful Passover and a delightful spring.

Soul-Centered Living

It takes courage to embrace the unknown and to find our way in new situations. Change can be scary and confusing. We must find “ground” first to calm down, so that the fear based part of the brain is not the only thing controlling our behavior. I call that part of the brain, the F brain; fear, fight, flight and freeze.
Mysticism and Kabbalah mentor us to find our soul-center so we can stay settled in the calm and peace of our soul, especially when we are feeling scared and confused. Mystical practices teach us ways to bring more calm to the body-mind and foster remembering and understanding of the underlying deep interconnection of all things. 

I am leading a weekend retreat March 3-5 at Kripalu to explore the relationship between mysticism, religion, spiritual practice, and happiness.
This holistic retreat provides a direct approach to living authentically and cultivating peace and well-being in all aspects of your daily life. I will explain complex concepts and guide healing contemplative practices that focus on reducing discontent and strengthening trust in your authentic experience. Practice transformative meditations, relaxation, and self-inquiry to point the way toward wonder, enjoyment, ease, and contentment.

I hope to see you there.
Blessings,  Rabbi Sigal
Sh’ma Meditation Retreat for soul-centered living at Kripalu, March 3-5.

Join Rabbi Sigal Online:

Contact us when you are ready for individual mentoring. Sigal has room for a few new students

Seeding a Soul Inspired Life

The time has come to seed the garden of your life with new soul inspired seeds.

Tu Bishvat (15th day in the month of Shevat) is almost here.  Under a full moon next shabbat we will celebrate Tu Bishvat (Friday night 2/10.) I hope you can make time to quiet down and contemplate seeding soul inspired seeds. What hopes and dreams are hidden in your soul this winter? What do you sense and imagine could bloom in your life when Spring arrives?

Tu Bishvat is a celebration of trees and nature. The trees are very internal this time of year. Perhaps they are too are dreaming and growing with strength. Readying themselves to burst with beauty in Spring.

Why do we take time to do inner work? Why should we sit quietly and meditate and simply make time to be? Because like trees even before the thawing and the blooming, we become alive from the inside out. Now is the time for deep inner growing; dreaming and imagining.

THE PRACTICE:

We begin by imagining the fruits we want to bring to fruition. What will you grow? Sit and become quiet to reflect on what you love; discern the desires of your heart. What is your heart’s desire?

Now, when you have a sense of what are your soul inspired seeds, your heart seeds, write them down. You may discover seeds you didn’t know were hidden within. You may want to make a list of them and read it over to see which are the ones with more pull. Keep the list and choose to reflect more on 2-3 of them. Attend to them. Nourish and water these seeds. Try to make time for dreaming and listening carefully to each.

Identify the necessary conditions to help your heart seeds grow and come to life. What are the approach you need to apply? What are the attitudes and actions you will take, or avoid, to support the growth?

Don’t rush. It is still winter. on Tu Bishvat the trees only begin to wake up and the sap begins to flow. Be patient and generous like a tall and strong tree. You have plenty of time to seed and germinate until Spring (Passover.) Don’t rush. Take all the time you need, but remain focused.

May your heart seeds germinate, take root and grow well. May they grow into a beautiful Spring garden and reward you with the delicious fruits and fill your life with beauty and peace. Enjoy!

I hope to see you soon at the Meditation Gatherings in February and Meditation Retreat at Kripalu, March 3-5. Please see dates and information below.

Many blessings, Rabbi Sigal