Category Archives: Spirituality

The woman who made me eat pizza and the massage that enlightened me

Today I left work at 3:00pm in order to be at my physiotherapy appointment at 4:00pm. I got on an empty bus, sat at the back, and called my sister in order to discuss our next evil plan.

As you can imagine, I was worked up and excited about the suffering we’re planning to inflict on a group of people this coming Thursday (spoiler!). That mixed with bad reception on her end and a bluetooth on my end had me talking in, let’s say, a vibrant voice.

Meanwhile a whole bunch of other passengers had boarded.

Except more bitchy (photo source)
Except more bitchy (photo source)

And then she hit. I frown as I write this because it made me so sad. A woman in the seat across from me started mumbling loudly to herself in Russian and somehow got across that it was about me she was being grumpy. I turned to her and said in Hebrew, “You just had to ask” and she said something mean and bitchy again about how uncouth I am for talking so loudly, “As if you’re at home.” Then I said, “Oh, you’re really nice” (in sarcasm, of course – it was the best I could come up with to at least attempt to instill some guilt in the lady’s soul) and then she said something mean and bitchy, part in Hebrew, part in Russian.

Blah blah blah, these things aren’t supposed to upset you. Stop wanting to tell me that. Stop thinking about how obviously it wasn’t personal and obviously she is just a bitter angry woman. It hurts and I was angry and I quickly began fantasizing revenge. Yes, right before Yom Kippur (because any other time of year would be more opportune?).

Specifically, I imagined jumping up, grabbing her goddam book of number games and shaking it to oblivion in the air, crushing it and then tearing out some of the pages. For some reason, only some. Maybe so she’d feel like she owes me.

My now-changed evil planning (first it was with my sister about Thursday, then it was all in my head about right then with the mean woman next to me) truly helped pass the time. How wondrous!

I arrived at my destination with 10 minutes to spare, walked by the pizza place and felt drawn towards it. I felt like I neeeeded that pizza after being made to feel so low.

And so I indeed ate that pizza.

It made me feel better knowing I still have control over when I eat one of the foods I avoid (cheese – not pizza per say). How lucky.

I went in for my appointment supposedly feeling a little better, still finding it hard to smile at my friendly physiotherapist. He asked me if I feel a difference in my back pain from doing the exercises and I said I don’t. He said, well let’s do some work on you then.

Suddenly I found myself lying stomach down on a massage table and he gave me a totally relaxing massage, loosening up my back muscles, particularly those that make me jump the most. He explained that this is in order to help the exercises work more easily.

I am a smirking yoga tree. Of course. (photo source)
I am a smirking yoga tree. Of course. (photo source)

Which made me realize.

Just like a body massage can help loosen things up, we also need soul massages to loosen up the crap there.

How exactly does one administer a soul massage, you might ask? Here are some ideas I came up with. I did #4 and #5 and felt much much better:

  1. Watch TV
  2. Meditate
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Make a list of things you’re lucky about in your life but only things you actually are able to feel lucky about at the moment you write them.
  5. Write our your thoughts and feelings in a private place (not for publishing).

Life whacks us around. We (well, I, and probably you too) need soul massages at least once daily in order to fortify against the poo. Life is just too poo-ful to get through without a soulful combating strategy.

My mediocre pursuit of mediocrity

The Jewish new year is imminently upon us and amazingly, I remember my resolution from the beginning of the year that is coming to an end. The one new year resolution I had was to stop pursuing perfection.

So how did I fare? Have I internalized more that idealizing perfection is a creativity and fulfillment killer?

Well, it’s complicated, I’d have to say.

I’ve exposed my perfection demons to my consciousness. I’ve become more familiar with how they behave, how connected I am to them and what I think about them.

Being more aware of their presence has allowed me to make some exciting and scary decisions. Namely, I am spending my days on things more connected to my talents and loves. This is an amazing development and couldn’t have happened unless I was more able to admit that I can pursue my passions without being perfect in them. It’s so much easier to fail at something that isn’t a dream.

But now that I’m doing more of what I really want to be doing, my expectations of myself and of my life have skyrocketed which hasn’t been fun.

Tapping into my hopes and dreams makes failure seem scarier than ever.

Bottom line? In a perfectly  mediocre manner I am succeeding beautifully at fighting my urge for perfection. I am allowing myself to pursue my dreams despite my fear of failing and I am fighting my pursuit of perfection when so much more is at stake.

How did you fare with your resolutions from last Rosh Hashana?

Shana tova. :)

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Using “Could” instead of “Should”

I’ve yet again had enough of my should voice. It is my incessant personal judge. It tricks me into thinking that there is always some ultimate way of behaving in every single given situation.

But my intellect has since matured and I see how much those shoulds are lacking in complexity and understanding.

So suddenly, a few days ago, I had an epiphany. I decided that whenever I catch myself saying that I should behave in a certain way, I’m going to switch the word (or idea) with “could.”

And so far, I must say that it has been a great success. I am finding my narrow-minded pressure making space for a world of choices.

Examples

OK fine, you want some examples? I’ll give them to you but please keep in mind that I think they sound pretty stupid when said out loud. Eek. :/

Here you go:

Should: Deena, it’s after midnight! You shouldn’t be up this late.
Could: You could be up this late. Or you could go to sleep.
The experience: Much less stress around the experience. It isn’t as if I sinned for being up after midnight nor will it be a sin if I stay up longer.

Should: Deena, it’s so bad that you’re leaving the heat on so much. So expensive and frivolous.
Could: Deena, you could have the heat on less if you want.
The experience: Understanding that my actions are not the be all and end all of money-spending and energy-using. Perspective.

Should: You should read all the old material from the first version of this blog post to make sure you don’t lose something that’s written really well.
Could: You could read all the old stuff from yesterday or you could just delete it. Whatev.
The experience: Letting go. Not worrying too much about the repercussions of my actions as if they are so critical.
P.S. I didn’t read it over. I just deleted the old stuff.

Should: I should include a picture with this post.
Could: I could include a picture with this post.
The experience: Get over it. Or, just stop it.

Should: I should feel offended by what he said.
Could: I could feel offended by what he said.
The experience: I could just let it slide. I will survive and so will my ego.

For the most part, the shift in thought is opening up my moments to opportunity as opposed to confining me to one supposedly righteous way.  The shift in my experience is from heaviness and seriousness to being more easy-going and lighthearted. So, so far so good.

Yes, I should have a proper ending to this post but I just can’t think of one!

I could have a proper ending. But I guess I won’t.

Tata!

Happiness, making the best, blah blah blah

Here is one of the recent pictures going around Facebook:

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything."

What’s wrong with this quote

Am I the only one that cringes from this kind of quote? I think it’s just annoying that it is assumed we’re all on the same page with a lot of the lofty terms mentioned here. Lets go through them:

The happy person

There is an assumption that we know what it means to be a “happy person.” From a quote like this, I automatically picture tranquil, smiley, laughing people. (AKA, those annoying happy people.) But what is true happiness?

Making the best

There is also an assumption that we’re supposed to know what it means to “make the best” out of something. I picture the person being faced with a terrible situation. This person who is excellent at making the best out of everything, quickly takes a good look at the facts and pick out the one, tiny little good thing about the situation and feels good about it.

But is that making the best? Or is that lying to yourself? I don’t believe in making “the best” out of any situation because that alludes to making everything seem OK when it isn’t OK. I think that truly making the best means rolling with the punches, feeling how one is made to feel from whatever is experienced. Appreciating whatever one can appreciate without believing that one is supposed to feel great.

The best things in life

Finally, there is an assumption that we all know what the best things in life are. What does that even mean, the best things? Who is to judge who has the best things and who doesn’t?

So who are the happiest people then?

I believe that the happiest people are those who aren’t desperately looking for happiness. They are the ones who wouldn’t think of making this sign. They are the ones who just don’t focus on happiness and whether or not they have it.

They are also people who try to make good things happen for themselves and others and they don’t really think about whether or not they have what they supposedly deserve. They don’t even go there.

Who do you think are the happiest people?

Important lessons from this past year

Tonight is Rosh Hashana. Everyone is writing their introspective thoughts on Facebook, emailing shana tova blessings and calling each other. And yes, I’m also feeling introspective and extro-spective. I am looking at my world thinking about what’s gone down and what hasn’t. Feeling grateful for all the wonderful things in my life and sad about the tragedy of life.

I’m working in the same company as last year but have since learned plenty about content, about online stuff and most recently, learning a ton about project management – my most recent position. I’m learning how to work with all kinds of people. I’m learning when to take charge, when to make decisions and when to lean on those around me.

I’m learning about the cyclical nature of relationships. I’m learning about the importance of keeping the peace and keeping the relationships good with those closest to me. I am learning that if both sides will it, it’s usually possible.

I’m learning that I’m not always perfect so I should really get over that idea.

I’m learning that it’s so often not about me.

I’m learning that life is most definitely a bed of roses – it is full of wonderful fragrances, beautiful views and lots of thorns.

I’m learning that it’s really easy to want something you don’t have.

I’m learning to appreciate the time I have, the health I have, the people I have, right now.

I’m learning that sometimes it is best to follow the recipe.

And, thank God, I’m learning to be a nicer person.

And why do I write this all in present tense? Because none of this ends. It is all part of the process of my life.

Shana tova umetuka,

Deena

The most important moment of the week

I heard a talk a while ago around the idea that Judaism is a religion where time is the most important thing. Now someone just told me he heard a talk where the rabbi said that the most important moment of the week is the moment when we go from week day into Shabbat. Our lives, potentially, revolve around that moment. We rush all week, maybe especially right before Shabbat, then we light the candles and *poof*, we’re in a new realm of existence. Not that anything really changed but it did.

When this guy shared that idea with me, I said that it almost made me feel like fully keeping Shabbat again. : ) It seems so powerful, almost like it reminds us that we have the power. We think that life is just pushing us along but we choose to stop it all. Of course we could choose not to and of course some people don’t even feel that they are choosing to keep Shabbat, but if you can feel that you’re choosing to keep it – I mean seriously, you don’t have to, right? – then you can experience freedom through this.

And is freedom not what we all want? True freedom?

Yom Kippur uninspired

It’s interesting to me (though not surprising) that these High Holidays, my first in many years in Jerusalem, are turning out to be the most uninspiring.

I dunno… Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are too overwhelming for me. I really just don’t feel the strength to try to make it meaningful because every time I start making an attempt, I feel like withdrawing and stopping.

I think I always have this feeling before Yom Kippur, that I wish it was over already. I love when it’s over. It’s the best feeling.

Ah! I really don’t know. Maybe it only feels somewhat meaningful to me (or sometimes very meaningful to me) because of all the hype. Yom Kippur is the ultimate day of hype. It’s the Jewish holiday that the most Jews celebrate and participate in. Is this just by chance or for a reason?

It’s really quite stressful thinking about this one day a year – well, 25 hours – when we should try to think of everything that has happened and everything we want to happen, not only to ourselves, but to everyone we care about and all Jews and the whole world.

And, of course, I’m just dreading the fast. I do hate fasting. And for those of you who don’t know, when us Jews fast, it means no food or drink, the whole time (except you aren’t allowed to put your body in danger so you must talk to a rabbi if you have medical questions regarding the fast). In this case, in Jerusalem, starting this evening at around 5pm, ending tomorrow evening at around 6pm.

I think that for myself I’m introspective so much of the time anyway that I’m not sure what to do differently on Yom Kippur. And I feel like it’s this window of time to quickly pray for whatever you want and that stresses me out.

OK, those are my current feelings on Yom Kippur. I sound so down here. I must say I’m not. I wish I had more positive feelings about the day that is beginning soon, but it’s OK. I’m still so happy to be here and I know that it’ll be over soon and we can move on to Sukkot!

Also, on a brighter note, I’m so so so grateful that I’m in a gazillion times better place than I was last YK. Last year I had the worst YK I’d ever had (and hope I ever have). I was in pain and couldn’t take pain killers, I was in the process of ending a long relationship which was horribly painful, I was unemployed after someone hired me, I waited two months for the job, and then they let me go after four days and, I lead the pre-teen services at the Conservative shul in Vancouver with all that going on. fyi, leading the services wasn’t bad, persay, it was just difficult considering how I was feeling in general.

But, I must say that after those hard times, things totally TOTALLY turned around for me! I had, for the most part, a really wonderful last year in Vancouver. Met great people, did great work, started writing seriously, finally! … So, I can’t say it was “worth” it but, however it works, it worked out.

Gmar chatima tova to all! I can’t translate this because that opens up a whole other can of worms. :)

The idea of Mashiach never sits right with me

I have never been able to figure out the whole idea of Mashiach (Messiah). It just doesn’t sit well with me at all. Who is this redeemer dude that we’re all waiting for? What is supposed to be so great about the time of Mashiach? I have always felt guilty to admit out loud that I do not hope for the time of the third beit hamikdash (temple). It just sounds stressful and, the worst part, it sounds like we lose our freedom.

People always talk about it like it’s a time when we all feel close to God, want to serve him, serve him with a whole heart, etc. etc. I’m claustrophobic just thinking about it.

How do you understand the whole Mashiach idea?

Am I Jewish if I don't believe in God? What does it mean to believe?

I co-wrote an article with Rabbi Shmulik Yeshayahu of the Kollel in Vancouver. It’s part of an “Ask the Rabbi” column in the Jewish Independent in B.C. Canada.

I heard it’s considered “brilliant” so I hope you’ll give it a try!

Use the soul to discover faith

My top 10 things about being Jewish: #1!

Quite a long time ago, at least in blog years, I started a countdown of my favourite things about being Jewish. I never finished because I couldn’t think of the top two. I wanted them to be things that really rock the house and anything less than that didn’t feel like they deserved places one or two.

Now I have found my number one thing.

My favourite thing about Judaism/being Jewish is our attitude towards life. Our belief that there is something inherently sacred in life itself. Our attitude probably towards everything in life is affected by our belief in life as an ideal in and of itself. Just think how much technology is put into warfare just so that we can target the “bad guy” as much as possible. In other words, even when it comes to our enemies who might be very dangerous, we care about their lives and minimizing death.

Throughout my countdown, I didn’t compare Judaism to other religions. But I must point something out here. Last night I was thinking that this will be the #1 on my countdown. This morning I looked at the front page of the paper and saw that Hamas has made a movie about their holy war with the Jews and the world. The favourite line of this movie – the line that apparently got applause in the Gaza theatre – was “To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God.”

It’s a horrible thing to think that someone believes that killing anyone is a holy endeavour. Yes, we sometimes must kill, but a Jew, ideally and, I believe, usually, is not happy about it. It is a necessity, not a good thing in itself.

I truly believe that if everyone took care of their own, really cared about the lives of their loved ones, there would be peace. I think that the root of wars is people caring more about some kind of ideology or idea or just good ol’ stuff (wealth, etc.) than caring about their loved ones.

If the whole world could instill in itself the idea that life is the most sacred thing, the world would be a very different place.

So, that is my number one. I went out of order. Now I still need a #2.

Here is the list so far.