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 Another is to discard things that are out of date, such as clothes that are no longer in fashion or things related to an event that has passed.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.

Resolve to Be Mendful in 2018

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We are the clay, and life, the potter’s hands.

Life changes and shapes us into what we are over our lifetime. Remember the times you softly surrendered into the hands of change like soft clay and allowed life to transform you? And do you also remember how at other times your vessel cracked or broke?

Leonard Cohen says: “There is a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.” The Japanese design concept called Kintsugi, repairing broken pottery with liquid metal, makes them more beautiful by highlighting the cracks and the place of mending. Rabbinic lore from 2000 years ago tells us the broken Tablets; Moses broke when he saw the people built a golden calf and worship it, when he came down from Mount Sinai the first time, are kept in the Ark of the Covenant along with the second Tablets engraved with the 10 commandments.

These are all beautiful inspirations to encourage us to embrace our brokenness, to stop hiding our humanity and to stop avoiding a fuller life. All brokenness, imperfections and pain are parts of our lives. Instead of living afraid to make mistakes, contemplate how you could live more mendfully this year. Instead of being afraid of breaking, although we have been broken before and survived, and are surely to break and hurt again. With it all, can we resolve to love ourselves, to embrace others, brokenness, scars and all?

I am writing this as we are entering a new year, 2018. I want to remind us not to begin a new year with a list of all the ways we are not good enough, broken, wrong and disappointing. You know what I’m talking about, the practice of making New Year’s resolutions, harshly aiming to fix all that is wrong and unacceptable in us.

But aren’t you doing the same each year and fail? You make a list and very quickly forget it and feel disappointed in yourself? Adding more bad feelings and shame and blame onto the pile of what’s wrong with you already. Turns out that instead of growing self love and being helpful, we grow self hatred and discontent in each passing year. Can we resolve to not use self deprecating and hating statements in an attempt to improve? How about resolving to include only resolutions that resonate as expression of the following: I love you and I care for you. We can try to apply changes, but also remember to not try so hard, guarding against causing more breaking instead of cultivating mending.

Please proceed with caution and be gently to avoid causing more harm within you and around you, even if it means not improving and stepping slowly into making big changes. Unless we all take the mendful path, choosing at each step to mend, no real healing and change will be possible.

Consider your motivations and set the right conditions. Use affirmations to bring you back to love and care and follow the words with healthy actions to mend body, heart, mind and spirit.

I wish us all a mendful 2018!

I am here to help you individually and in groups, virtually, online and in person.

I look forward to connecting with you in 2018.

Love and blessings, Rabbi Sigal

Mendful living is here for you. Please join us to mend our world and all of us.

 

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.