Thursday, December 8, 2011

Continuum Movement Musings

Many of you know that I am a long time aficionado of Continuum Movement.  This practice is has guided many to becoming more alive, enlightened and feel better.  It is a moving meditation that uses sound.  It makes me feel more connected to the Earth. Continuum Movement is best experienced by doing it. For more info on Continuum :
My friend, the holy and gifted artist Judith Margolis asked me to explain how Continuum  Movement make me more connected.
The 4 world model from classical Kabbalah is a good way to enter into the layers simply.

1)Assiyah - Realm of doing Sensation   YHVH   Reptilian Brain
I can track breath and fluid moving and  unraveling in my body.   This helps me track my state of well-being.   It serves expand awareness locally and identify where the stickiness may be physically in my body.   I can also track  Tissue movement - subtle and gross  in others.  This teaches me to feel the subtle vibrations of our beautiful living and breathing planet.

2)Yetzirah – Feeling  YHVH    Limbic Brain
This offers a sense of connection and well-being; being a  part of the global community.  Satisfaction; when insights come. Curiosity. Interest.  Whimsey.  The unfolding of life becomes less mysterious - the ability to determine what is likely to happen - what the unfolding will be like offers peace.  It helps eliminate anxiety.

3)Breeyah - Intellect and Creativity.  YHVH  - NeoCortex
True Intellect is Creative. We work with fluids and breath.  Breath is God - YHVH. Every time we breathe we are invoking The Holy Blessed One. This is a secret of the 4 letter Name.
Fluid/Water is Hesed; unbounded giving.  Living in a desert , as the Israelites did, makes the appreciation for water deep.  It is easy to see why mystics equate water Hesed - unbounded love with H2O. Water’s nature  is expansive.  It fills a container fully.  Water needs a container for us to use it well. Its tendency is to not be container.  Water has this consciousness wherever it is.  On Earth or in the Heavens.  )From Torah and Science - the water on top of the Rakkia and the Earthly waters.

4)Atzilut - Spirit. Being close to the Holy Blessed One  YHVH  - Cerebral Spinal Fluid
Continuum is a prayerful modality.  It connects me more deeply and profoundly to the First Source and Center of All.  It is a holy experience of dvaykut; cleaving to the Creator.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rahamim; Compassion

The word that had been resonating in my heart  is RaHaMim; commonly translated as compassion. 
What is RaHaMim?  Most commonly it is translated as Compassion.
There are two players in any compassionate act.  The giver and receiver. 
Let’s consider both modalities.  An optimally compassionate act, is when the giver, gives the receiver what she or he is able to receive fully and completely. No waste.  No miscommunication. No hurt feelings.   It feels so very good and right when it flows that way.
Compassionate Giving calls for tuning into what the receiver really needs -  really listening and tuning into the heart of the one receiving.  It can mean altering the offering to give what is truly called for. This could be different from what a giver may have intended initially.
Compassionate receiving is receiving what is being offered with integrity and kindness.  “I really wanted ice tea, but thanks anyway for this espresso.”  We can choose to receive the tea and focus on what is perfect and wonderful about it.   For example, Tea has Less Caffeine than coffee... and the polka dot glass is so very festive.
Here’s another example.  We have 2 cats, Tesla and Mo. Tesla, aka Tessy is quiet and demure - she tends to keep to herself, Mo is full of vim, vigor and mischief.  He has a mind of his own.  Mo likes to venture outside, unnoticed. 
From time to time I look for Mo in the house, calling “Mo!  Mo-she!” I go outside go outside.  “Mo!  Mo-hammed!” I wait.   Then a gentle nudge. It is Tessy.   I am learning to pause and appreciate Tessy’s loving response; meet her, pet her, and have a moment with precious Tessy.  Even though I know that I still need to figure out where Mo is. 
You just may not want what is being offered. It may not be good. For you. There are skillful means of saying, “no thank you" that lets the person making the offer feel good about the offer.  Perhaps it is possible to suggest and alternative, that you do want.  “I’ll pass on the coke, but that orange juice looks really good, thanks,"

There is a sod; secret within RaHaMim.  the word ReHeM is its root.  ReHem means womb.  Noticeably a feminine attribute.  RaHaMim, in its highest form is compassion in the way a womb is compassionate to the unborn child; pressing against it, holding it, nourishing it.  Expecting no-thing from it, more than its well being.  A little kick and everyone is delighted.  The womb is the model of the ultimate Earthly compassion source. 

13 attributes are chanted often during these holy days.  It is a method of invoking Compassion given over in Torah.  Compassion from the HBO is what we seek.
When we chant Adonai Adonai El RaHuM v’HaNuN*, it is RaHaMim we are invoking, first.

It is significant that the first of the 13 attributes references the  feminine maternal aspect of wombing and nourishing.  
This is what we are asking of the HBO for when we chant the 13 attributes the sages teach - the totality is included in the beginning and the attributes start with RaHaMim.
When a cord is strummed on one guitar, the other responds by resonates the same tone. The resonance is shared. The impact is shared.
It is accepted in classical Kabbalah that heaven and Earth sit as 2 guitars adjacent to one another.  So, strumming a cord on Earth; results in a resonance on high. 

Jews all over the planet, gather in synagogues and pray to live another year. We ask for a good life.  We ask that the Holy Blessed One assess us all from a perspective of compassion.   
The best way to invoke Rahamim on high is practice it on Earth amongst ourselves. This way, we can co-create a compassionate world. 
Let’s start the year by being the compassion we crave.  

May you be woven into the spiral of life and love..

* 13 attributes
Adonai Adonai Eyl Rahum v’Hanun Erekh Apai-yim v’Rav Hesed v’Emet Notzer Hesed Lalafeem Notzer Avon v’Feshah v’Hata-ah v’Nakeh
Three translations (they are different spins on the Hebrew)
> 1) Adonai, Adonai, Eyl gracious and Motherly, Patient for The Long Term, abundant Love and Truth;  Bringing Love to the masses, Carries away crimes,  negligent errors,  mistakes and cleans up after.
> 2)Yod Hey Vav Hey, Yod Hey Vav Hey, Compassion and Tenderness, Patience, Forbearance, Kindness, and Awareness; bringing Love from Age to Age, Lifting Guilt and Mistakes; Making us Free.
> 3)Adonai, Adonai, Eyl of Mercy and Grace, patient, and abundant love, and truth; gives love to the myriads, carries off transgressions, violations, mistakes and cleans up any residue.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy Rosh Hodesh Elul; New Moon of Virgo

Every Month has distinct 4 letter permutation connected with it offered by R Joseph Ashkenazi ( ~1450)  of blessed memory. 
It can be found in his inspiring commentary on Sefer Yetzirah.
The 4 letter permutation for Elul is:
Heh Vav Heh Yud:

Focusing on this Name is meant to provide access to the Holy Blessed One; it is like the key for the month. It supports prayers being received on high and answered.  

Every year at this time, tradition invites us to intentionally revisit the journey inward
- to do the important spiritual work of T'shuvah; re-turning to Source. Elul; the month
preceding the High Holy Days is specifically designated for T'Shuvah. We are asked to
take measure of our lives and repair relationships that have been compromised by our
actions, by the actions of others or by the vicissitudes of time. We have this vital opportunity
to reassess intentions and embrace what is healing, nourishing or useful and to release
what no longer serves us.

On the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year marks the end of the growing
season. The farmer's markets are filled with ripe, sweet smelling fruit; the last of the
peaches and nectarines are making space for juicy figs and plump persimmons. Soon
pomegranates will abound. Farmers harvest the fruits of their labor and weigh in their

Each growing season starts with intention. Farmers set out to grow produce of quality
and quantity. The end of the summer's growing season ushers in a new harvest
and initiates the weighing in of our lives journey. Harvest is the process of gathering
mature crops from the fields. This abundant time of year marks the focus of seasonal
celebrations of many religions and cultures around the world. 

Farmers hope that their produce will be enough to sustain them the winter; as now
growth has slowed down or stopped all together. Will the food grown be sufficient for
our needs? It is natural to reflect and assess how we can improve the growing and
harvest processes in future years. 

Jewish tradition teaches that the Earth's cycles manifest deeply in the human psyche
and are mirrored in our life experience. Just as the farmers weigh in produce and hope
that their crops exceed expectation, so too, we reap what we sow during this season.
Elul and the High Holy Days are the time of harvesting the fruits of our work. It is a
time to weigh in and measure what our life has yielded. We ask: Are our intentions
drawing us closer to what we truly value? Are we experiencing the depths of life and
love? Or is our current situation untenable? Do life and love appear blocked? Do we
need to modify our intentions to draw us closer into peace, joy, productivity?

Death and Rebirth also arise as themes during the harvest season and the period of the
High Holy Days. We will chant the awesome and familiar words 'Who will live and who
will die?' 

These powerful words call us to reflect on our own practices and habits;
to examine our lives and ask which habits are useful and nourishing in contrast to those habits which
have become a blockage to joy and love and are perhaps destructive. Let us extend
this question to consider, “what” aspects will live and “what” will we choose to let die.
Some habits are best to be allowed to die - to be released. 

The good news is that this release creates a vital space. For those of us with very full
lives, making space can provide a big relief. New dreams, habits and practices can then
take root. Now, during these High Holidays we have a potent opportunity to co-create
our world for the upcoming year.

Blessings for a nourishing Elul and a year of good health, abundance, clarity, healing, community, generosity,
compassion, understanding, wisdom and inspiration.

Infinite Blessings,

Rabbi T'mimah Ickovits

Thursday, July 7, 2011

2011 Tammuz

Last Shabbat we greeted Rosh Hodesh; the New Moon of Tammuz.   Cancer – the crab.  
The movement is towards chaos and disarray.  The energy is subtly shifting already.
Last week’s Torah portion, Hukat, told of the death of Miriam, and the resulting lack of water.  The people got angry. The Holy Blessed One instructed Moshe to speak to the rock and draw water out of it.  Instead he hit the rock. Water came forth and the people drank.  Moshe was denied access to the land as a result of this action after leading the people for 40 years.  This seems harsh. This subjugation of nature was not tolerated. 
This Shabbes we will read Balak; the portion about a King who feels threatened and wishes to curse the Nation of Yisrael. He hires a Bilaam. a sorcerer to invoke a curse. The intention to cause damage is clear. 
When it comes time to the so Bilaam cannot invoke it.  In the end the words of “Mah Tovu” are uttered – “How good are your tents, Ya-akov; the Mishkan; Dwelling place of Shekhinah” .  The curse, is not uttered.  Rather, he blessed the people. 
These portions mirror the non linear and unpredictable nature of this time of year.
Tammuz, as noted in the “Empowerment in the Solar Year” (see prior blog) chart posted earlier resonates like “midlife crisis”.  The Cancer crab can pinch. It calls for a questioning of values, direction, and lifestyle chosen.  It is an opportunity to examine conscious and unconscious patterns, the basic assumptions from which we operate and their validity in our lives today.  Often patterns remain longer than they are useful.
Early Judaism was based in the Temple and sacrifices.  The Temple was where people went to worship, to meet The Holy Presence.  On the 17th of Tammuz, Jerusalem was surrounded and on 9th of Av the Temple was destroyed (twice according to tradition). With the Temple gone, the people’s spiritual practice was destroyed. The first Rabbi’s gathered soon after and developed the second phase of Jewish practice based on the sacred times and the holy days.  The end of Temple based Judaism was a major shift in Jewish practice. 
The Reshimu; residue of these events color this time period.  We, like the first rabbis, are invited to consider assumptions and patterns that are ongoing.  Do they serve?  What should they be altered and how?
On a personal level, I meet Tammuz with trepidation.   In Tammuz; July 1997, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I recall the feeling of fear and uncertainty that came with the diagnosis.  I was afraid my life would end.  
The diagnosis revealed to me that there was something foundational was amiss with the way I was leading my life.  I had previously thought my lifestyle was healthy and life sustaining.   A deep knowing manifested in my soul that transformation was necessary for survival.  It caused me to reflect on my life choices and make significant changes.  Like the first rabbis who developed Jewish practice without the Temple, I had no idea how it might unfold. However, I was indeed fortunate, that the calendar cycle was ripe to support this kind of process at that time of the year.   Or because it happened then because of the opening.  We can not say for certain.
For me, this time of year marks the death of the secular corporate lifestyle that was consuming my life force.  It marks the birth of my commitment to tune into holiness always and continually refine this practice. 
Today, thankfully, I can confirm the diagnosis was a blessing. In disguise.  I am healthy, thank God.   The experience empowered me to turn my life around. I am grateful.
Every death is followed by a birth.  Every end marks a new beginning.  2000 years ago Temple-based Judaism was destroyed. Rabbinic Judaism was born.  "Cancer" is powerful time in the calendar.  Finding the lump in my breast and the subsequent diagnosis certainly gave me pause to reflect.

So we too, like the first rabbis, we ask ourselves, what is essential ?  What serves and what can be released? 
What are the unconscious patterns in our life that no longer serve?   Which new ones need be integrated into life? 

May gentle guidance arrive with sweetness this Summer and always. 

Empowerment through the Solar year, Holy days and the seasons

The solar year holds within it an complete birth and rebirth cycle.  This offers a reference for meeting the holy days. It is important because it offers a reference to holy time rooter directly from Earth’s seasons. It provides insights into the totality of year and hints at skillful means to deepen holy day experiences.
Weaved from the Torah of the Holy Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, May he live, share his wisdom and enjoy life for a very long time,
Astrological Sign
Hebrew Name
Related Holy Days 
Life Cycle Step/Comment
The Archer; Sagittarius
1rst days of Hanukah
Winter Solstice
Conception – First Light within darkness.
Last days of Hanukah
New Year (as it relates in time to Christmas)
Aquarius; Water Bearer
Tu B’Sh’vat

First signs of development and growth. 
Pisces; Fish
Mardi Gras, St Patrick’s day
Adolescence; Mischief, Masks, Indulging
Aries; Lamb
Spring Equinox
Coming into young; adulthood.  Aries; Lamb as it relates to the Pesah lamb offering
Taurus; Bull

Counting the Omer; a process for spiritual deepening

Jewish Month of healing
Gemini; Twins
Shavuot – Receiving Torah

Empowerment; like marriage, confirming a degree
Cancer; Crab
-  3 weeks - 17th of Tammuz – the 9th of AV
- Tu B’Av; Full moon holiday. End of crisis; move to Tikkun; reparations. T’shuvah; re-turning  process starts  on this full moon
Summer Solstice
Mid-life crisis in the heat of Summer
Leo; Lion

Virgo; Maiden
Elul Prep for the High Holy Days

Repairing past errors; Tsuhvah; Return to Source.  Preparing to meet The Maker and be judged

Libra; Scales
-Rosh Hashanah
-Yom Kippur
- Sukkot – Sh’mini Atzeret
Autumnal Equinox

Judgment, refinement
Happy Grandparents giving goodies to grandbabies.
The holiness of everyday.
Void of holy days, place holder for future birthing of Moshiah consciousness; ie enlightenment for all.  May it happen soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Aleph Kallah; Or Chadash 2011

Last week I was at the Aleph Kallah in Redlands, CA.
It was a rich week, filled with joy. I estimate 600 people gathered together to learn, sing, pray and commune.  It was a nourishing 6 days in sacred company.  Each person; students, staff and teachers sparkled with their individual holy light and contributed to the unique sacredness of this time together. The joy was effusive, intentionality directed, and good will permeated the event.

There is great power in gathering with a group of like minded individuals with holy intention for duration of time.  It felt like a taste of the pleasure of Olam HaBah; the world to come.  

Being there gives me great hope about building a better tomorrow.

The Aleph Kallah is held every other year just after the peak of Summer Solstice.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shavuot - Receiving Revelation for the 21rst Century

The space time continuum is pregnant with potential.  The Month of Sivan was initiated last week as the new moon became visible. 
Historical events leave an imprint on the cycles of time. When we honor the holy days we open portals to the past.  The holy residue of Kabbalah Torah; receiving Torah at Sinai moving closer and will come into full focus after sunset June 7 for the entire day as Shavuot is embraced and the wedding between The Holy Blessed one and Yisrael is consummated. More of this later. 
Shavuot celebrates receiving Divine Revelation.  Shavuot is a holyday that is associated with G’vurah, discipline.  Shavuot is very different than Pesah.
On Pesah Divine Grace is celebrated.  The Exodus, freedom from the MiTZRaYiM - the narrow place - was a Divine gift. It is a spiritual gift offered on the first day of Pesah; the full moon close to the Spring Equinox.  This grace does not depend upon merit. 
Merit creates a container to contain the Grace. 
Grace is like water.  The container is like a cup.  Without a cup, or container, water will dissipate.  Similarly with out merit to contain the revelation this Pesah revelation can not sustain and nourish.
This is not a punishment, rather a basic operating principle.   
After Pesah, a new gift will be available. In 50 days a sustainable revelation will come and the privilege to receive it must be earned.  
On Day 2 of Pesah, preparation to receive Torah begins. The Omer is counted.
Jewish tradition offers 49 psycho-spiritual lenses for personal discernment and reflection to use over the 49 days of preparation. This is an opportunity to delve inward and prepare to receive Torah.
This is a 49 level process of personal refinement. 
The vessel is refined and ready to receive Torah.
 The 50th level integrates all the other 49. 
It is Shavuot - the great receiving.  Matan Torah.
Every year we gather the eve of Shavuot to hear the new revelation.
 I can't wait to learn what is received this year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Iyar - Hebrew Month for Healing

This is Iyar – the Hebrew month designated for healing. 
It brings me great joy to meet this month each year.  


In Iyar, the manna first fell from the heavens to Earth to feed the Children of Yisrael in the desert.  

Rebbe Elimelekh from Dinov points out that this month is designated for emptying the stomach from mold and compromised gall*.  He goes on to point out that most illness is a result of eating food not appropriate for the "human condition".

In Iyar, manna first descended from the heavens.  Manna was Divine Food - always fresh. Manna was absorbed into the body in its totality (Yomah 75).  It nourished completely.  Eating manna initiated a noticeable shift in the health of the Children of Yisrael, since it caused neither weakness nor disease like the foods they were eating before did. 

Iyar, the month following Pesah, is an opportunity to reflect on eating habits. Pesah demands paying attention to what is eaten.  Food is fuel for life.  From the perspective of the annual cycle,  Iyar also serves as a reminder to reflect on eating practices while moving from Winter to Summer.  

The food we eat, significantly impacts health and longevity.  We have a great deal of control of what we eat.  

Since past events serve to imprint the calendar with repeating potencies, the month of Iyar is an invitation to improve health by refining eating habits.  In this way we can bring the blessing of manna into our lives today.

* Bnay Yisaskhar Iyar Ma-amar 1 The Dinover Rebbe ~1850

Friday, April 29, 2011

Inspiration from Pesah 2011

Pesah practice offers fewer choices than the rest of the year. Leavened grains are not permitted, and this being true, the eating of all grains is looked at differently.

The Pesah diet offers a subtle twist towards Tzim Tzum contracting as the days are getting shorter and warmer, and fruit is starting to blossom into the abundance of summer.

It is interesting to feel the changes that result in the body, which come about as a natural consequence of this eating practice. Torah teaches, v'achalta, v'savata, u’varakhta; you shall eat, and be content, and then invoke blessing. (Deut 8:10).

The industrial revolution brought with it blessings and curses. Technology offers high volume production. Abundant inexpensive processed came about as a result. More is better. The challenge is that the the quality of nourishment can be diminished, unless great care is taken to maintain it.

For example, refined sugar is a significant source of dis-ease in our society. It is a poison, since it is depleted of any life force, vitamins and minerals*.

Essentially, sugar masks the body’s sense of contentment -- that is, the feeling of being full and nourished. I clearly remember the sense of confusion I would get when I ate sugar. I had just eaten, yet was definitely hungry only 30 minutes later. I am being guided to remove sugar from my diet.

As a result, I can now tell when my body needs fuel. It is key to maintaining the body’s sense of orientation to healthful nourishment. On the occasion that I eat sugar, I can feel my sense of contentment become altered. This masking takes away our freedom of choice – since the basis has been altered.

Have you ever seen a sugar refining plant?

I got a tour inside one by watching “Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel. They showed an enormous factory, many stories high, with huge vats and mechanized conveyor belts that moved the sugar from process to process. Hard edges, many gears. It was hot in there. Steam emanated from the vats and furnaces. Temperatures upward of 120 degrees F. Sweat streaming down the masked faces of those who dared enter. It looked unforgiving – like it would crush anything that got in its way.

The job being considered was severe -- people wearing what looked like space suits were lowered via harness on a crane to clean the red-hot blades that moved the sugar past the heating element. The blades glowed red hot, like mechanical charcoal. If left untended, the sugar would stick to the moving blades, become layered, and clog up the heating element. It looked like the person was being dropped into the bowels of hell.

A toxic assembly line for a toxic substance: refined sugar. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as it were.

Pesah is a time when we are invited to limit our food intake -- that is, to consciously limit our eating habits. It affords an opportunity to alter our personal eating habits as we re-integrate foods into our diets.

Of course, this is contrary to the way many people celebrate Pesah. Past culture has trained many that more is better. That “more” honors the holy day better. This overindulgence is a remnant, an anachronism, from a time when people did not have sufficient food to eat. It is hard, even counter-intuitive, for many to consider Pesah as a call for minimizing consumption.

The world is different today than when our parents grew up. We have learned that “less” can be “more”. A practice of consuming what is needed for nourishment supports health personally in the short term. Having said this, it is can be very challenging to shift into a mindset where "less is more". I feel differently after eating Pesah food for 8 days -- lighter, more spacious, as it were This feels good as the days continue to get shorter and we get ready for summertime. We need less food when the climate is warmer. I will try to use this to help modulate my weight this Summer.

This break from ordinary eating opens a door to the possibility of change. This is deep wisdom from our ancestors.

Consider this - if you kept Passover Kashrut, you have already done the “heavy lifting” of committing to a change.

If you did not, you can ride on the energy of the season and those who have.

After Pesah, we re-introduce foods into our diets. We can do this selectively.

What will you change this year?

Thanks to (very soon to be) Rabbi Jordan Gerson for his inspiring shiur at Mishkon Tephilo in Venice, CA on the eighth day of Pesah 2011. It inspired this post.

* Refined sugar has been called a poison because it has been depleted of its life forces, vitamins and minerals.