Positively Zen

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Tai Chi Thursdays are totally where it’s at.

Today, I did my first Integral Tai Chi routine since maybe February 2016. It was slightly more difficult than I remembered since I’m so out of shape, but it was just as much fun and rewarding. I had to use the videos I used in the past because I got a little rusty and didn’t quite remember all the movements and the mantras, but eventually, it came back to me and the workout flowed as naturally as it had in the past. A couple more times and I’ll be able to do it with ambient music instead of videos, meditating with Sheila Chandra’s “Sacred Stones” in the background, and all will be right in the universe again.

The final segment of the workout, as always, is meditation. There are several stages of this segment, one of which is the stage of appreciation where you have to think about two good things that happened to you in the last 24 hours or the past week. So I thought about my daughter finally being healthy, no more fever, no more suppositories, no more sleepless nights, and I smiled a huge and honest smile. Then I also thought about yesterday. I had the day off work and used the time to bake a broccoli quiche. Both my husband and my daughter loved the holy hell out of it, and my huge smile became even bigger. Thank the Mother Goddess. Blessed Be Her Name.

As I came out of the meditative state, I made a decision to try my best to reduce the amount of negativity in my life. I want to stop lamenting the weather. Instead of thinking about how much winter sucks, I should focus on the warmth I feel when I’m at home with my loving husband, my amazing daughter and my beautiful dog. Instead of thinking about politics and getting all pissed off, I should focus on the peace of mind that I always have when I surround myself with my art and music. Instead of worrying about my health, I should focus on my Tai Chi routine and look forward to next Thursday so that I can indulge in yet another workout and recharge my state of positivity.

Always focus on the positive. A grateful heart is a happy heart. Namaste.

Peace, love and invocating the dragon.

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Heart-Shaped Star

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My birthday is coming up on Tet-Vav Tishrei which falls on September 27 this year. And yes, it is Tet-Vav and not Yud-Daled as some people keep telling me. I was born at night, after the stars came out, so that makes it the next day, that is Tet-Vav. So there!

As usual, the full moon is the most important thing for me on my Jewish birthday. Since the time I started observing the cycles of the moon in relation to my cycles and my body, it became imperative for me to see the full moon of Tishrei every year. One year, there was a sandstorm on that day which completely blotted out the moon, and I was utterly depressed and riding an enormous tidal wave of rage. I wrote an angry entry in my diary and nearly tore through the page with my pen.

Last week, we once again had a crazy sandstorm that was so bad it made it hard to breathe. Pregnant women, children and the elderly were advised to stay indoors, with the windows closed, and the AC working overtime. Since no rain would fall for another couple of months, I feared that the sand would persist all through the month and I will once again be faced with a faded smudge of white on a diarrhea-tinted night-sky on my birthday, and my levels of pissed-off-ness would go right off the charts.

But now that the dust had indeed settled, here’s another thing that might ruin the moon visibility on my birthday: the full lunar eclipse which is set to take place in the early morning hours of the 28th. That’s cutting it really fucking close, and I hope to the Goddess and the moon angel that I will be able to see the full pearly moon before it turns to red (as they say it does during a lunar eclipse).

Also, I wonder what it means, if it means anything, in terms of astrology. I never really put my faith (or fate for that matter) in horoscopes. But I do believe that the moon and the stars and the planets in our galaxy affect events on our planet in some way. I think horoscopes are a poor indication of this phenomenon, but it does happen somehow. So I wonder what the lunar eclipse will bring forth.

I also recently found out that there is in fact a connection between the Zodiac system and Judaism. I don’t know why I never realized this before. I mean, if anything, it is so obvious that Libra would fall on the Jewish new year. This is a time of judgement and of justice. The Goddess measures our good and evil deeds on a scale, just like the Libra, and we atone for our sins on the Day of Atonement in order to tip the scales in our favor. I’m not sure what the other Zodiac signs mean in relation to the other Jewish months, but this Libra timing is too perfect to be a coincidence.

The moon has been dark earlier this week. I think it will start peeking sometime tonight as a thin crescent that I like to call a fingernail clipping. Hello moon! Welcome back!

Peace, love and still a proud Libra!

The Dragon

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“There is no mantra for the Dragon because the Dragon is about self transformation, and self transformation requires emptiness, and emptiness requires quiet meditation.”

This is the way to do it. I don’t know how to explain it but there it is. Most beliefs come about this way or that way, I guess. It just comes to you and suddenly it makes sense. And this is what I felt this past Friday.

It was the day before International Woman’s Day and I wasn’t planning anything feminist in particular. I just wanted to go about the order of my day whatever it may be and wherever it will lead me.

I usually try not to do anything too transgressive when the Sabbath comes in, so my Friday routine follows the order that will most likely keep the most difficult work and mundane use of electronic devices and home appliances way before sunset.

But before all that, I take about an hour to an hour and a half to do my integral Tai Chi exercises – an important part of my Friday morning routine. I recently stopped using the YouTube videos as guides since I know the poses and the movements by heart, as well as most of the mantras. Instead, I put on my Ambient CD, concentrate on my movements, count my reps, focus on my breathing, on my focal point whenever balance is needed, on the horizon far beyond the walls of my living room, far beyond the Wadi in my backyard, but most of all I focus on the Truth or the Dharma that transcends the material world and the empirical senses. The One that dwells in all dimensions of this universe and beyond, within the spiritual realm and all the light and the darkness, the consciousnesses or the voids that can and cannot be expressed by human language or understood by the human mind. The mantras help me a lot in my efforts to connect to this supreme essence.

The Ambient tracks increase this connection exponentially through their experimental sound effects, each one going deeper and getting stranger than the next. Some contain repetitive sound patterns that change only slightly every time they come back. If these sounds were visual, they would look like the waves on the shore of the Kinneret that come in and out in a repetitive dance that changes only slightly every time the moon rises and the tide turns.

The routine closes with a few minutes of meditation. For this purpose, I skip forward to Sheila Chandra’s “Sacred Stones“, where she sings a Sanskrit prayer to Vishnu, followed by the Latin phrase “Dominus illuminatio mea” meaning “the Lord is my Light” and then Amen and Hallelujah. I close my eyes to shut off the mundane world, sink deeper into myself and into my spiritual world. I easily shift the Sanskrit lyrics to adapt it to my Jewish belief. When she sings Vishnu Vishnu over and over again, I hear Elohima Elohima (Mother Goddess Mother Goddess). She who is eternal and everlasting. She who will exist even after the waves on the shore of the Kinneret dry up and the tide no longer turns, and when the moon no longer rises or falls but moves out of orbit and disappears into some black hole. When the constellations move into some unimaginable celestial realm and all human existence will suddenly seem so small, so minuscule.

To close off the routine, I join my palms together, close to the heart chakra, bow my head and say “Namaste” – “My divine spark recognizes the divine spark within all my loved ones and all those within my karmic web”.

Later on that Friday, as the sun was nearing the horizon, I lit the Sabbath candles feeling even closer to the Goddess than I have felt in months. I honor the Divinity and Her Presence, I welcome the Sabbath Queen. International Women’s Day feels much more special when I pay homage to the Trinity which I refer to in female terms – Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Mother Goddess. I keep thinking I want to do my Tai Chi routine outside, in nature, under the celestial drape of the sky, preferably next to a running stream, with a couple of candles sitting next to me in a shallow groove in the earth so that the wind doesn’t blow them out. Being surrounded by the four elements – holy water, mother earth, the column of fire, and the Shechina so tangible and so effervescent in the Jerusalemite mountain breeze – for an hour and a half every Friday will be even more powerful than anything I can experience within the confines of my living room.

But my spirituality is different from that of the religious women who take advantage of their long bus rides to do their morning prayers or read King David’s Book of Psalms. I don’t like to expose it in such an obvious way. I would also feel self-conscious if I feel strange eyes studying me and my movements in the middle of a park, wondering if I’ve gone mad. It will no doubt distract me, and the spiritual aspect of my routine will be lost.

So this is what makes sense to me. Doing these exercises and reciting these mantras should be done on a Friday morning, with the sun coming through the windows, Ambient music in the background and maybe burn some scented oil or light a couple of candles anyway. And it should be done shortly before lighting the candles. The circle is complete.

Peace, love and a grateful heart is a happy heart and a happy heart is a healthy heart.

Namaste

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As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I started doing Qi Kung. I struggled to find the exact exercises that my mom does and found several clips on YouTube presented by the same instructor that my mom had back in Montreal. Although they refer to it as integral Tai-Chi, I still think of it as Qi Kung.

I think the main difference I noticed between integral Tai Chi and the other kinds of exercises I found was the level of intensity. Integral Tai Chi moves the entire body, whereas regular Qi Kung seems to be moving only the hands and arms. The first time I did the full routine, including the warmup, all the positions, the cool down and the meditation at the end, I found my heartbeat had increased and I was breaking a sweat.

As it is for many forms of martial art, there is also a huge emphasis on spirituality and mysticism in Tai Chi. I loved the mantras the teacher recites as she demonstrates the movements and the positions – mantras that inspire love, compassion, kindness, gratitude and sends positive vibes with the energy created throughout the exercise. It spoke to me a lot, first because I’m a very spiritual person, and the routine made me feel like I was exercising more than just my body, but also feeding my spirit and my mind. Second of all, these exercises fill me with much positivity, which is very hard for me to come by at a time like this, when I spend every waking hour in yet another clinic, undergoing yet another test, and gearing up for another surgery.

After I finished the routine this past Friday, bowed with my clasped hands and gave a final “namaste”*, my boyfriend came back from his basketball game, limping, with a bruised thigh and an aching arm. He complained that the game was too physical (i.e. violent) and that he was playing with people who don’t know shit and thus kept losing all the time and it served to do nothing but infuriate him

I told him that next time he should consider joining me for integral Tai Chi because the result of it will be the exact opposite of his basketball game without taking away from the fitness aspect of it:

1) You don’t get any bruises or injuries in Tai Chi provided you follow the teacher’s instructions correctly.
2) You don’t have to suffer being with people who don’t know shit because the teacher is there to guide everyone.
3) There is no losing, only winning.
4) There is no violence, only positivity, peace and love.
5) It will calm you and take away all the stress of the past week, will make you cool, collected and happy.

What I love most about my exercises is that they use my body’s natural movements as exercises and teaches me to go along with my body and not against it. It uses soft movements to exercise your muscles and flowing movements to make your blood flow and your heart race. It may seem like an “easy” workout (as my boyfriend views it as something boring) but it’s a workout nonetheless, a workout for the body and its essence, plus the sweat and minus the pain.

Peace, love and I ought to use scented oils next time.

*”The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another.” – Wikipedia. I just found that beautiful!

Fast and Easy

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This week on Tuesday, a bunch of Jews all over the world, including myself, will be fasting for 25 hours. Many of this bunch of Jews, excluding myself, worry about Yom Kippur because the fast is so long, and view it as pure suffering.

I, on the other hand, like to look on the bright side of things, because I don’t do things that make me suffer unless I find a bright side to them. So the following is my list of ways to keep a positive mindset while my stomach is grumbling away. To my fellow Jews, maybe you’ll identify with some of those, too.

1) No cooking and cleaning: On any other holiday, my family complains that they have to cook and clean and entertain a bunch of guests. Well, guess what! On Yom Kippur, you don’t have to cook anything, and won’t have an obscene amount of dishes to wash! (Seuda Mafseket comes before the fast starts so that doesn’t count).

2) No eating: I don’t like to eat, ok? I just don’t. And it’s not really an eating disorder, it’s just that I hate my digestive retardation, and I hate the fact that anything that goes down my throat (except for chocolate) ends in disaster. So Yom Kippur shreds because I don’t have to waste any time stuffing my face with food that will most likely make me sick. As a result, I won’t have to waste any time sitting on the toilet, moaning to high heavens, and feeling my ass go numb.

3) Sleeping: Well, since you will be running low on nutrients, your sleeping pattern will most likely be simply drifting in and out of consciousness. If you have low blood pressure, like me, you may feel like you’re falling asleep when, in fact, you’re actually fainting. That’s all good. It just makes the fast go by faster.

4) Reading: Last year I read an entire book in one sitting. Reading is the best entertainment you’ll have while everyone else around you is wallowing deep in their personal misery. And if you can’t sleep because your head is throbbing and your stomach is well into the process of digesting itself to oblivion, reading will keep you somewhat distracted. Make sure it’s a good book, preferably fiction (Stephen King is highly recommended).

5) Talking about food: I usually complain that my mom and my aunt spend their entire fast talking about food, but it does help. What’s also good about it is that during a fast, you get the best ideas for recipes.

6) Spirituality: There is something about being hungry that causes me to feel small and vulnerable. It’s during times like these that I feel the Presence within me the most. I’m fasting so my body is empty, and it’s forbidden to do anything on that day so my mind is also empty. My mind and body are completely void, and all that remains is the Presence. Towards the end of the fast, I go to the synagogue to hear the shofar, and am filled with a mix of emotions so strong, I cannot express it in words or facial expression. So I cover my face with my hands and cry. It’s extremely cathartic, and sometimes even gets me high.

7) Health: For those who are not on prescription medication or have a fasting deferral for health reasons, fasting does have some health benefits. They say that fasting cleanses your body. The same is true for me on a deeper level. After the first sip of tea or milk that breaks the fast, I feel cleansed, both physically and spiritually. It feels like being reborn with a clean slate and starting all over again.

Aside from all that, this year my teeth decided to go shithouse. Aside from losing one of my fillings, my teeth closed down hard on the bottom right side of my lower lip when I was having dinner last week. This developed into two small aphts which grew bigger, and cause unbearable pain whenever I eat. So comparing the pain of eating with the “pain” of fasting, I say thank the Goddess for Yom Kippur!

Peace, love and we should stop saying have an easy fast and start saying enjoy!

Fuck NO. Period.

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This weekend, I was this close to asking my boyfriend to tie me up in chains to keep me from fucking the bejesus out of him. Why is it when my bits are temporarily incapacitated that I get so goddamn horny? Not that it doesn’t happen when I’m fully functional, because Lordisa knows it does, and my pants drop faster than you can say “flood.” But must it really happen when said flood is red?

The first and only time I ever did give in to temptation and did the unspeakable during my monthly cycle was over four years ago. My subsequent vow to never do it again came as a result of what I felt immediately after the fact. I was sitting on the bed, wrapped in a winter blanket, feeling the numb pulsating labia, with my head bowed, my eyes shut. Black things were fluttering around my essence in the spirit world. I invoked some evil force, and the stain is one I would have to atone for for years to come.

I’m not fucking kidding. There is something so holy and so powerful in my menstrual blood that does not allow for any man (or woman, for that matter) to so much as go near it. I was right when I called my vulva and my uterus the Holy of Holies. During the Second Temple, only priests who were pure of heart, soul and mind could enter the sanctuary. The story goes that they would walk in with a rope tied around their ankle so that if they were to have any forbidden thoughts, they would drop dead and would have to be dragged by that rope. 

During my period, and ensuing renewal of the Mark of the Covenant, entry is forbidden to anyone and anything but myself. I think that this is also another reason why I stopped using tampons and industrial pads. Only pure organic cloth pads are worthy of the stain. I didn’t know that four years ago. Back then, I still hated my period. I still saw it as something utterly disgusting and completely unnecessary. And I still hated my body – hated the way it looked, and hated it for making me have this monthly burden. So if my sexual partner of the time would have no problem with it, I guessed period sex would be ok, because I couldn’t care less about it anyway.

But it wasn’t ok. It was so fucking wrong. The evil force was called forth and the black creatures furiously flapped around my terrified spirit. I mean that literally. It was the worse mistake of my life and the only thing I truly regret. I wish I could go back and reiterate the negative response I gave at first, but in a more decisive and final tone.

As a result, I gave up period sex, as well as industrial menstrual products, for good. And even if it’s a drag at times of intense desperation, like this past weekend when I finally resorted to my fingers, it sure beats feeling like the devil’s flavor of the month. And furthermore, I think that my fear of the black creatures’ return is only part of it. Since I learned to love my body and treat it with the respect it deserves, I learned to love my period, too. This is my time of the month. My time with myself and the Divinity. No one can come between us, or come between my legs. If tying me down is what it takes for me to keep this vow to my inner child, then so be it.

Bring on the chains. This is my decisive and final NO.

Peace love and Goddess bless this bloody mess

A Very Feminist Hanukkah

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Tonight is the first candle of Hanukkah and I’m all excited. Hanukkah is the time of the year where I get to light candles and not have to struggle to not to turn on the lights or watch TV, unlike Shabbat. I still turn on the lights and watch TV on Shabbat anyway, but that’s besides the point. It’s also the time of the year where I get to stuff my face with doughnuts and not feel guilty about it. Just like calories don’t count on Shabbat, they don’t count on Hanukkah or Passover or Rosh Hashanah, and they sure as hell don’t count on Yom Kippur, seeing as you don’t eat anyway.

What’s interesting about this holiday is that, unlike other holidays, it’s the man’s obligation to light the candles. There are three commandments in Judaism that women are obligated to follow – allocating a piece of dough from homemade bread as a burnt offering; not having sex for two weeks during the time of the period and doing a ritual bath after the two weeks; and lighting candles. So on holidays and Shabbat, my mom and I have been lighting candles since I was two years old. But my dad was always the one to light the Hanukkah candles and do the prayer.

In Orthodox Judaism, the only commandment a woman can do on behalf of the man is lighting the Shabbat candles. This is why married women light two candles on Shabbat, one for herself and one for her husband. But on Hanukkah, a woman cannot light the candles for the man. He is the one who has to do it for himself and for his wife. Whenever I fail to understand the logic of a given commandment, I don’t follow it. So since I fail to understand the logic in the Hanukkah candles enigma, I light the Hanukkah candles even if I am not obligated to do it. 

I like candles. Candles rock. Whether it’s for religion, spirituality, commemoration, relaxation, copulation, inspiration, any reason is a good reason to light candles. And if being a woman means I don’t have to, I shall be a woman who simply wants to. I own the Labia Minora and will light the Labia Menorah.

Peace, love and now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting with a Roladin chaser doughnut stuffed with chocolate liquor.