Polyvagal Theory: A Mendful Pointer to Wellbeing

Polyvagal theory and other neuroscience teach about important systems that regulate our responses. These new areas of study are important for us to understand because they point us to wellbeing. The theories explain patterns in our body-mind which heavily influence our lives; physiologically, psychologically, relationally and cognitively. 

I have seen the positive effect of sharing this information with my students. A beautiful shift can happen when we learn how the body responds to fear and stress. It helps because it can stop us from taking things personally or believing we are broken beyond repair. It  points us onto a kinder mendful path toward our hope and strength. This knowledge along with guided MENDtations and self inquiry exercises can help when we are dealing with negative arousal responses. Many of my student learn to relax more, rebuild resiliency and access more joy in a relatively short time.

What I teach in my retreats and personalized mentoring sessions  is now supported by the growing body of research and knowledge from neuroscience. We combine guided practices  and conversations to help create the conditions for the desired shifts back to health, contentment and ease. Centuries before seeds of neuroscience theories were even thought of, spiritual and religious practices such as meditation, chanting, visualization, prayer, tribal and physical rituals and cognitive methods, were used to calm, destress and point us in the direction of joy and contentment.  It is powerfully transformative when we delve into ancient practices and teachings now with the added knowledge of the new findings.

We discover how that they go together well because they address the same human needs; the freedom and easing of fear, stress, anxiety, discontent, agitation and unhappiness. I feel awe when I see these connections because they reflect to me humanity’s desire and ability to engage in a continues and expansive exploratory creative unfolding toward betterment of our conditions.

The retreats I teach are immersive and supportive experiences where we relax and let our full selves be. We learn how the conditioned unnecessary reactivity in the body-mind act as door ways to healing and positive change. It’s amazing what can be done in three days! Participants are able to delve deep into their inner spaces and experience beautiful connection to soul. It’s profound and moving to witness. 

Participants report that the group experience and the exercises are soul nourishing, insightful and mendful on many levels.

Hollie wrote: “Following Rabbi Sigal’s Mendful program at Kripalu I have experienced a shift, a softening, a turn towards wonder. So much of this heart opening was a result of ‘marinating’ in the loving community Sigal held for us.”

I love guiding and supporting people in retreats and with personalized Mendful Life Mentoring. You don’t have to do it alone. I am here to help. Together we journey the mendful path.

Retreats at Kripalu 

Mendtations

It’s Mending Time

Together we mend our lives and the world. One conversation, one action, one commitment, one small step at a time.

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More than ever, the world is calling us to fulfill our mission of Tikkun Olam.

Tikkun Olam is rooted in Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah and is summoning us to strive toward repair, healing and mending the world.

Disconnect and loneliness are common now a days and we need to find ways to bring our attention together for caring conversations. To reconnect and begin to mend our feelings of brokenness and separation.

With Mendful, a new word I coined, I hope to communicate a big idea in a simple and direct way.
MENDFUL, describes in a word a healing mindset.  A cluster of ideas and attitudes informing a mending and healing way of being. 

I hope MENDFUL the new mind set becomes a primary m i n d s e t  for healing ourselves and the world. In Mendful I combine several ideas and attitudes to reclaim our connectivity and humanity. Among them are: kindness, mindfulness, gracefulness, heartfulness, caring conversations, listening, sharing, patience, authenticity, creativity, remembering our deep interconnectedness, generosity, receptivity, forgiveness, compassion and peace.

Let’s gather, connect and mend… Please join us in cultivating and spreading mendfulness and healing our hearts and the world. We gather to meditate, pray, learn and engage in healing conversations. We are bringing more people to the conversation with virtual forums and resources, and we hope you join us.

What we need is TIME TO MEND … Join us to learn how to relax, feel less burdened, breathe a little easier, mend and heal.

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Mendful Living Mentoring with Rabbi Sigal for individuals and small groups. contact us for details and to schedule a free 15 minutes consultation for new students.

RETREATS at Kripalu Center, MA, With Rabbi Sigal (Registration and Information)
Midweek Retreat October 17–19
Mendful Living from Your Soul: Fall Back Into Ease and Contentment
December 23-25
Wisdom of Kabbalah: A Retreat for Inner Peace
December 28-30
Mendful Path Retreat for Mending Heart and Soul

Ease into Messiness

Why Seder?

Seder in Hebrew means order.                                            Receive our newsletter

Messiness is life. Humans have been talking and writing about chaos and messiness for thousands of years. It has always been a part of our experience and motivated us to change. With determination and creativity we seek to bring about more order.

Out of chaos the Earth was formed, a few ancient myths of creation tell us, the Genesis narrative among them. The goal of these stories is to make sense of the unknown and to organize. The general thrust of these myths is that an all-knowing and powerful God takes charge of chaos and with superb wisdom was able to organize the world and guide it. (Don’t you sometimes wish your world could be effortlessly and efficiently organized like that?)

But still, even with a super powerful deity, the messy story continues. Our human experience is a chain of messes, monumental ones and smaller ones; personal, communal and environmental. To help us cope with this reality, many aspects of every religion are dedicated to organization and order. For example: rituals, laws, governance etc. They serve a purpose.

We don’t like messiness and we want to have more control because we are uncomfortable with the unknown. We like things to be more predictable, known, so they are less anxiety provoking. We don’t like surprises. Or maybe we like only good surprises. (Although, some of us rather not even experience those.) In our age, when anxiety is a prevalent condition, a pause of “Seder” of ease and enjoyment is a welcomed remedy.

When we clean and prepare for Passover with anticipation for a night of orderliness (Seder) we remember messiness is part of life, but we also remember our ability to bring about order. We are able to shape and control space and time (i.e, ritual.)

The Jewish year cycle of holidays invites us to routinely encounter themes on the map of human and societal needs. Spring holidays are opportunities for cleaning, organizing and celebrating order and openness. An invitation to remember that having order and routines can be supportive to us spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Predictability that comes with order allows the body-mind to relax on all levels. It is relaxing when the amount of decisions we need to make is reduced. At the Seder we can lean back, sing, eat and enjoy. The order of the Seder, the meal and the story are basically prescribed, although many embellish on it for fun. The Seder ritual gives us the permission to effortlessly “ride” it to the end of the evening and declare it complete.

I hope you can enjoy the evening of order and ease. When we are at ease we open more fully and enjoy the mystery of life. Because, after all, life is a wonderful mystery, and with all the control we try to exercise, it’s messy and we don’t fully know. It may sound contradictory but, the more we ease into messiness, accepting life is an unknown mystery, the less anxiety we experience. In a way, reducing our angsts about needing to control everything, combined with some preparation and orderliness, allows us to relax into the mystery with more ease, and awe. That, my friends, is freedom.

I wish you a holiday of ease and contentment. Dayenu!

Does It Spark Joy? Spiritual Preparation for Passover

When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” Marie Kondo, in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Even in the process of cleaning and organizing we examine our relationship to things, people, physical space and inner states. In the process of choosing we remember, sort through and choose. To what will you say yes, and to what will say no?

Hello Mendful Springtime!

Where spirituality meets Spring cleaning.

Cleaning for Passover is my favorite ritual of Spring. Each year I rediscover how cleaning with a purpose makes a huge difference in my life on a few levels. Preparing for the first night of Passover, the Seder (in Hebrew means order) is a journey of putting things in order. The yearly ritual of preparing is much more complicated compared to the Seder ritual, which is relatively simple and it has a script (Hagaddah books!)

Spring cleaning can be a transformative endeavor even before the holiday begins, if we do it right. Scrubbing, removing, discarding, cleaning and rearranging our living spaces has the potential to refocus and give us a new sense of freedom and ready us for something new. All this physical work can however obscure the opportunity to attend to our inner clutter of thoughts and beliefs, unless we use the process as a reminder and intend to include examining the inner landscape along with the physical cleaning.

It is hard to let go, but you’ll be glad you did. Marie Kondo suggests an efficient process by which we can select the things we want to keep. She suggests we use this simple question as a filter criterion, “Does it spark joy?” While Kondo’s book is primarily focused on how to tidy up one’s physical environment, her guidance can be metaphorically superimposed over the concept of clearing out inner clutter as well.

Marie writes, “There are several common patterns when it comes to discarding. One is to discard things when they cease being functional—for example, when something breaks down beyond repair or when part of a set is broken. Another is to discard things that are out of date, such as clothes that are no longer in fashion or things related to an event that has passed. It’s easy to get rid of things when there is an obvious reason for doing so.” Marie invites people to ask themselves, “Does this item spark joy?”
Let’s begin to clear our environments and attend to inner clearing   so we could forge a path to freedom and ease.  To remember what we cherish and remove what does not work or useful any longer. To better choose how, with who and with what we want to spend our time and resources. May you find mendful paths to more freedom and may life and all you do and have spark more joy.

I wish you meaningful cleaning and organizing, and a joyous budding of Spring’s renewal.

Welcome to Purim: Happiness is Served

A holiday dedicated to happiness and fun? Yes!
On Purim we are “commanded” to be happy and have fun. But what if we don’t feel like it? That is why it is a “commandment!” Even when, or especially when, we don’t feel happy or are not in the mood to celebrate we have to engage in this practice of having fun and being happy. Purim is an opportunity to practice shifting your mood. A valuable skill to have! The reciprocal flow goes in both directions; allowing more playfulness brings about more joy and more joy encourages more freedom to be playful.

I have shared about setting the right conditions instead of setting goals, for living the life we want. Happiness and fun work in similar ways. On Purim, we set the conditions and are  reminded about happiness.
We know from studies that smiling and laughing, even for no reason at all, changes how we feel. When we smile and laugh we set the physical, chemical, and neural conditions to feeling happier. 
Purim is an interesting combination of fun and masquerading. It works because freeing ourselves to be playful, in how we dress and behave on Purim, sets the conditions to silliness and giddiness, and that in turns contributes to more happiness and encourages more freedom of expression. Freedom of expression goes together with feeling authentic and opens us to more joy and fun.

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

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 mend 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.