The Jewish Month of Tevet: The Beginning of Our Golden Year

 
 

Aaaannnndddd...that’s a wrap people! Goodbye 2016. Later. Bye. Bye. Goodbye. Seriously, goodbye. 

From Aleppo to Ghostship to Carrie Fisher, this year has been. It's been. Sometimes you can process your feelings by crying or yelling or laughing and feel better. And sometimes it's 2016 and you just feel shitty, for a long time.

The thing is...we made it people. We're still here. We're alive. We made it through a collectively horrifying year. We've gone through the stages of grief (or at least some of them): denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Wherever you are, it's ok. You 100% deserve to be living. I've said it before and I'll say it again: We need you now, more than ever. We also super duper need each other. 

The thing about hard times is they bring us together, our movements are growing stronger and we have the opportunity to build with more depth and energy. How will you grow with the people you love in 2017? First being you. Then your friends, family, community, country, planet. 

Tevet: Our Golden Year

The Jewish month of Tevet begins at the end of Chanukah. I love this. I love that the beginning of a new year lines up with the end of a slew of golden lights representing miracles we would never expect. We all have the power to collectively create a reality that's filled with the glow of unexpected rising resistance and beauty.

As we all know, sometimes the love of power reveals itself in terrible ways. This pisses us off. This, is potentially very good. Tevet, is the month of anger. Anger can be a very motivating force to move us into action. Anger can transform us or, it can deplete us.

We need protection so the anger doesn't turn on us and instead fuels our power. Tumeric is a very good remedy for transforming anger. I've been taking my friend Lizanne Deliz's (Eye of Crow Herbs) Tumeric Oxymel to help with this. (You can see from the almost empty bottle it's very good!) Golden milk is also blessing my table these days. Tumeric helps to reduce inflammation and keep our digestion smooth and strong.

My blessing for you: May the qualities of grounding, protection and transformation be the root of moving with focused anger to bring about justice to make this a golden year of miracles. 

Miracles of 2016

Good people, let’s focus on some good things from 2016. Let’s feel good, for a moment about what went well.

  1. Fingers crossed emoji now exists.

Ok, I can end my list. That’s great. That’s enough to keep the fires burning for a long time. Thank you emoji programmers who just caught up with the most necessary hand emoji we have EVER needed. Fuckin, how did that take so long? But yay, for now.

Ok, now for all the other miracles!

2 The DAPL pipeline was stopped because of the leadership of youth and elder indigenous people.

3. Lots of hugs were given to people we love.

4. Lots of meals were eaten together.

5. Harriet Tubman is replacing a patriarchal asshole on our $20 bill (hey money is energy peeps).

6. Bernie almost became president. Yes, I believe this to be true.

7. After 2 years we finished up our version of DIY Art School (formally DIY MFA) -- listen to the podcast on Congratulations Pine Tree here (episode #106).     

8. Cultural icons like David Bowie lived and died and changed our lives. So did Prince and Carrie Fisher and Sharon Jones (just heard her Chanukah song, best Chanukah song ever.) and George Michael. It's a reminder of how close those who pass can still be to us. 

Card for the Month:
Go!
(Yiddish: Gay! Yes, go is gay in Yiddish.)

This is the first month of the beginning of the Gregorian year. It's time to move our asses and get up and go. In all regards. Begin your resolutions dear ones. Including a greater love for yourself. Isn't that the root of all resolutions?

I would assert that self love is not an isolated event. I think there's a cultural understanding of self love and self care as taking time for "yourself," with baths and spa days and nice meals. There is nothing wrong with that kind of self love. It's completely necessary to take care of yourself, everyone deserves and needs that.

The Jewish Month of Kislev: Darkness My Old Friend

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We need the help of our ancestors, the help of all the benevolent ancestors of this earth. Those who have faced the most adversity have the most to offer us about making resilience beautiful and in alignment with love. I think that is why many have really supported the efforts of Standing Rock. And in the tradition of Kislev, we remember the stories of resistance.

Cedar is a tree of many of our ancestors. The smell, texture, the smoke of cedar are grounding. The sight of a cedar tree eases our eyes with it’s beauty. Even in the cold, cold months it stays green to enliven and brighten our spirits. The energy of the tree is like an ancestor--deep, present, grounded, full of vitality if we chose to tap into it.

This is like the dark. The dark time of year is a gift because it’s so much easier to tap into our own depths in the darkness. Most of the universe is dark. Though our skin is exposed to light and we see an outside world of light - the inside of us is completely dark. Yet that is where most of our functioning exists. Our organs, our brain, our genitals are shrouded, protected by darkness. As soon as we close our eyes, we’re invited into this mysterious, exciting place of dark and imagination.  

My blessing for the collective: May there be a global turning to center Indigenous voices and leadership. May our love of clean water be greater than our love of convience, progress and cultural amnesia. May we wake up to the memory of our heart, which has neurons in it, to use it as our brain.

Card for the Month: Veils (Yiddish: SHLEY-ers)

As we move into the end of the gregorian year and into the darkest time of the year, we’re given the opportunity to face what may have been obscured or hidden below layers because it’s been too painful to look at. However, with the recent election the scab of our dwindling democracy was peeled away and the wound is infected, bleeding, throbbing. 

There’s emotional pain but there’s also the pain we feel in our bodies. This is often a veil to something deeper. The physical pain covers up and hides the spiritual and pain of the world we all hold on some level. This pain in our bodies can also hide from us the beauty and bliss of the world.

Beyond the veil of pain is beauty. For me, my pain gives me an opportunity to feel the beauty of life. (That’s in a good moment. Sometimes I’m like FML for several days of the month because of endometriosis.) We can’t experience joy without pain. There’s an acuteness, a vividness to life I experience after an episode of pain.
 
Veils are things that obscure something else. I’ve often heard, we are spiritual beings living in physical bodies. So, in this way our bodies are veils but they are also tools, an opportunity to stay tethered to the earth with our physical pain but also with our joy of earthly things. Ah, to have a body, to have sensation, to be alive.

The Jewish Month of Cheshvan: Welcoming the Darkness

horsetail.jpg

Horsetail’s magical properties: boundaries, staying firm to commitments. What a great herb to use to support new year’s resolutions. To affirm the habits we vowed to fulfill in the new year. Image source: Arrow Ami

The Hebrew month of Cheshvan is upon us as the moon’s darkness comes into the light. After a month of holidays and celebration, Cheshvan is often called the “bitter month.” It’s also the Libra time of the year (‘Moznayim’ in Hebrew), when we have the opportunity to balance ourselves and habits before the coming winter months.

Maintaining boundaries, staying firm in our commitments, and the endurance to do so are some of our biggest work living in a capitalist patriarchy. In Cheshvan, we make a descent into the darkness at the center of our beings. We are offered the structure of the darkening days to go inside and experience our depths. Our depth is our line of ancestors, the myriad ancestors we come from.

Horsetail, the plant in the picture above, is one of our ancestors. It’s a plant that’s been around since the dinosaurs, when it grew to the size of large trees. It’s associated with Saturn, the planet of endurance, self-control, protection and overcoming challenges. Back when blacksmiths worked closely with alchemists, horsetail was used to give magical strength to swords and armour. So, use it this month to strengthen your own boundaries and cut through bullshit to get to the heart of the matter. It makes a delicious tea; make sure the plant is from a clean area, since it absorbs pollutants easily.  Though tasty, it can have the flavor of bitterness, but also gives us a sense of balance. I believe our ancestors want this for us and they are living in us as we grow on our path.

My blessing for you: In the darkening days may the beauty of fall lay on your skin and be a protective encasing for the glorious fight you do every day to be more and more of yourself.  

 

A friend recommended this video of Thich Nhat Hanh exploring the idea that even our thoughts are our ancestors and we have the ancestors of plants in us. Take a look...

Thanks to angelorum.co for the information about horsetail.

Card for the Month: Extinction

(Yiddish: OYS-shtarb)

The last couple weeks, as the moon has waned, I’ve had the urge to get rid of stuff. My grandmother’s pink chair, many of my most treasured items of clothing. I haven’t gotten rid of the chair yet (don’t worry mom, I’ll consult you first), but I am having a strong urge to let go. But I haven’t, yet.


This time of year the natural world is going through her biggest time of letting go. The leaves falling to the ground, dead, are in complete symbiosis with the cycle of life. Their death is necessary for the trees to grow again. We as humans watch the leaves fall in tons; we essentially watch the earth fall from the sky. In witnessing the heavens fall, the dying leaves become our archetype for the connection between heaven and earth. The leaves aren’t afraid to die because they know their death is a part of their life. What would it be like to have a faith like that? To believe that in the letting go of an object, a habit, an emotion, a person, there is power that gives us life.

The Jewish New Year: Under the Blanket of Tishrei

Image of a 1400 year old ginko bilboa tree in Xi'an, China c/o TheDailyMail.com

On Rosh Hashanah morning this year, I woke up to go to services. But something kept me from getting out of bed. I stayed under the blankets, pet my cat for awhile in the dull morning light, happy to be alive. I felt myself wanting to fall back asleep, which I never do, but that morning, I did. During that second slumber I had the most wonderful dream where I felt completely lucid and awake. In the dream, I looked out the window of my apartment to a soft pink hue and a huge ginkgo tree with huge bright orange leaves. The leaves were the color of California poppies and glowing. Their luminosity hung from the tree and the fallen leaves made a pattern on the ground. I awoke feeling I had been visited.
 
Of course ginkgo biloba trees don’t turn orange when they turn; it’s more of ayellow. I did a little research and found that some living ginkgo trees in China have been dated back 3000 years, making them the oldest living specimen in the world. They also bloom at night and shed their blossoms quickly as if they are celebrating the wonder of life in secret. And, they grow breast looking bumps on their trunks. (.)(.). So of course I became fascinated by this ancient tree. 
 
I take ginkgo everyday in my herbal tincture but had never before dreamt of the tree. It’s good for memory, and  it made me think about wisdom. What humans consider wise now and what we’ve considered wise at other times in history. I believe the plant came to me to remind me the wisdom of who we really are. That on the birthday of the world my brain, in collaboration with the ginkgo was reminding me of the ancient DNA that makes up who I am and all of creation. That the secret of life is not complicated, and is in the simplicity of a tree that stands steady, blossoming in secret, nurturing with it’s trunk and creating a blanket of leaves that will return to nourish the soil. It’s a truth the tree stands for, but also what we can stand for.

The theme for this month is coming back to your truth. I listened to my truth and went back to bed and dreamt about this healing remedy. By listening to my truth I received the medicine I needed. 

My blessing for this month:

May you listen to your waking and sleeping dreams and allow them to whisper to you the antidote you need.

Card for the Month:
The Impossibility of Conformity
(Yiddish: um-MEG-LEKH-keyt fun mit-halt-eray)

We are all striving for a sense of belonging, a sense that we are part of something greater.
 
Conformity and belonging are distinctly different. But capitalism banks on their similarities to conspire to make you and all your friends feel like shit. That’s why developing and nurturing a sense of belonging within ourselves is a revolutionary act and pairs well with self-love.

The reality is: it’s impossible to conform. As much as we try, we can’t. To face up to the reality of conformity is to admit our humanity. We are each a completely unique imprint on the universe. Yet, we all have the same DNA, so essentially we’re exactly the same.
 
In Judaism, now is the beginning of our lunar year. With the moon guiding us, we begin again. How might we counter capitalism’s grip? By looking to each other’s faces, feeling each other’s distinct hugs and seeing diversity, appreciating the quality we feel somatically with each individual in our lives, and then looking to the moon to remember: we all look at that moon, we all feel her rhythms inside of us.

The Jewish Month of Elul: The Double Rainbow of Your Lifetime

Gettin' figgy with it. (Yes, I said that).

Gettin' figgy with it. (Yes, I said that).

I stayed with my cousins last week and their abundant green fig tree. The fruit was oozing and drooping (there’s another analogy but I’m not going there this time folks). My cousin was up early every morning putting away fig jam. That’s Elul. Cooking it up and, sealing it up.

In Elul you stir the pot and begin to prepare the dish you want to be served in the coming year. You get to use all the hard moments, the times you missed your mark and transform them into sweetness. Your preparing your jam.

 
 

Dudette, my cousin made fifty jars! That’s essentially a jar a week. Sweetness everyday for your gf toast that you can eat with joy knowing all the hard work you put into it!

In Elul we blow the shofar, the ram’s horn every day. This sharp, horned, fleeting, piercing, screeching, deepening call awakens our spirits. It says: Wake up people! Be alive! Climb out of your despair! Have courage! Turn! Turn away from what does not serve! Turn towards the true desires of your soul! Commit to living a life more aligned with your value!

You do all this preparation to answer the call of your beloved, who you will meet on Yom Kippur (more on that next month) to spend one precious day embodying the eternity of your true essence. Deep I know, the ultimate cliffhanger for next month’s blog post ;).

Your beloved is everything that came before and everything that is to come. It’s your ancestors, your time in utero, your birth, all the days of your childhood, all of your relationships, all the feels you’ve felt. If you are embodying your beloved it’s also all that is to come, your dreams, visions, what’s to be held in your hands.

Elephant in utero.

Elephant in utero.

The basic format of Judaism is similar to most spiritual or moral practices. We take the same steps. And Elul is our time to reflect and prepare for the coming year.

Here are some tried and true suggestions for working Elul for your most beneficial growth:

  1. Say it loud. Tell someone you trust what you did, talk it through and seek counsel. This applies not only to ways you’ve hurt others, but yourself as well.

  2. Fix up your mistakes. Apologize and find support to change your behavior (only apologize if it won’t hurt the other person or yourself).

  3. Give. Do things to get out of your own head, free yourself with this.

  4. Move on and seal it up. Turn turn turn towards what is true, what is good. Wind up like a top and keep the momentum going.

Good luck! You got this you champion queens!

 
 
 
 

Card for the Month: Love (Yiddish: LEEB-shaft) 

Love. The love card.

Speaking of unforgettable double rainbow experiences...What we see is what we can love. But how to love what we cannot see? This is the month of the unknown love.

As the last dog days of summer are upon us we have our final adventures. We can use the emotions of fleeting and unabandoned freedom to support our unknowingness. This month may seem very foggy. Our task is to bath in the fog as if it’s the divine’s breath coating us in her delicious lull. To receive the vision of love with faith because we can’t actually see the love this month.

We have to feel it.

The Jewish Month of Av: Love and Destruction

If you haven’t already guessed, there’s a running theme of contradictions in my Rosh Chodesh reflections. Holding the oys and joys. This month of Av has an intensity like no other, in my humble opinion! 

Av is a lot about death (and also--wait for it--love). There has always been death and destruction on this planet. And, since patriarchy made it’s way into our reality, oppression. It’s been an intense last couple months, with the Orlando tragedy, the killings of Alton Sterling, Korryn Gaines and Philando Castille by police, as well as multiple incidents of violence in Syria, South Sudan, France and Turkey. It’s left many of us shaken with grief and with renewed energy toward action and working for justice. 

In Judaism we celebrate the holiday of Tisha b’Av in the month of Av. This holiday marks the anniversary of two separate destructions of the Temple. I’ve been thinking so much of a quote by artist Lauren Bon: “Artists need to create on the same scale that society has the capacity to destroy.” Destruction and creation are eternally caught up together.

Nettles hold this contradiction in plant form, growing where there has been devastation. A burnt down house, an uprooted forest and then they can do their healing. Though the season has passed, I saw nettles gone to seed by Strawberry Creek in Berkeley last week. They stuck in my mind as an analogy for the month of Av. We’ve been stung. Capitalism has stung each and everyone of us; it’s a nightmare on our street. We are all connected like spores of a two mile long mushroom. How are we going to make art from the sting? How are we going to hang out long enough to plant and nurture the seed?

 

Av, the opposite of a LTR.

Av, the opposite of a LTR.

Av gives us another holiday that may be the key, Tu b’Av. This is the holiday of love. Ahhhh, the soft, tender embrace of love. In ancient times people would go out into the fields on Tu B’Av to find their love. The story goes that everyone would pool their white clothing together and mix them up. That way the poor and rich could not be distinguished by what they were wearing, it was mixed up. Of course there is a heteronormative version of this story but here’s my interpretation / how I choose to remember the story:

All genders of people would put their clothing in a big pile. Who ever chose to be the chosen or the sought after would pick something to wear that was not theirs. If one was poor, perhaps they would choose something fancier, if they were rich perhaps they would choose something more humble. But it was each person’s choice. Then, they would go out into the fields, dancing. The mating ritual would begin. Some would experience a one night stand that felt like eternity, others would find their life partner. But love would be the focus and merry meeting would be just as sweet as merry parting. Bodies of love, dancing, playing, sexing. The original anonymous sex, not knowing a thing about the other person. Trusting the pull, the embrace, the spores of connection.

We can make art and love at the same rate that patriarchy (and all that falls into that category-racism, sexism, ableism, classism, xenophobia) is seeking to destroy it.

My blessing for you: Surrender to the sting. Go through the grieving of destruction. Then, wait for the seed. Put it inside of you. Let your creative love be the prayer that you grow.


Card for the Month: Poop on a Stick / צואה אויפ א שטעקן / TSOY-eh oyf a SHTEK-n

"Making something out of nothing."

Hey everybody, everything’s been pretty poopy recently. Poop, poop plop. Goddess almighty, I have been feeling it! Recently a teacher of mine posted the Poop on a Stick card on her facebook page. Someone’s comment was that the card looked like a diagram of the Kabbalistic teaching about tzimtzum. I loved this!

Turnin’ poop into compost, people.

Tzimtzum is the teaching about the beginning of time. A.K.A. the Big Bang, quantum leap etc etc. In the beginning of time there was only the infinite filling all of existence which was totally non-existence (getting existential over here). When the will to create began, a contraction and expansion happened simultaneously. Within the contraction everything existed, in one tiny point. But it needed to expand in order to express itself completely.

I made this card to express some of the most poopy, uncomfortable experiences in life but it’s really all in how you look at it. Holy Shit.

 

The Jewish Month of Tammuz: Joy and Pain (like sunshine, what else, and rain)

WITHERING ROSES

WITHERING ROSES

Sixth grade (stay with me on this metaphor people): a time of unsurpassed joy and excruciating pain. In my first year teaching public school I was handed, sixth grade. I used to tell people, “They are feeling things they’ve never felt before, they’re thinking things they never thought before. Hormones are intense.”

Teaching sixth grade for the first time is only comparable to being in sixth grade for the first time, lemme tell ya. We talked about gender, racism, death and, how to format an essay. (Oh the wrath of the formatted essay!) My own experience of sixth grade included my first need for deodorant, heavy acne and accidental discharge; among other perils! All of which to say, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s song (which they sampled from Maze), Joy and Pain that came out the year I entered sixth grade, 1989, was deeply appropriate.

What you might ask does sixth grade have to do with the month of Tammuz?!

In the U.S. it is now summertime. Freedom from (for many of us as youth) the confines of public school and wide open time. But for many, as hurtful as public schooling can be, it also provides a structure and a summer without structure can be confusing, at best.

Our ability to feel pain is matched to our ability to feel joy.

It's all about joy and pain. But it's kind of more about pain right now. Tammuz is the Hebrew month of mourning. The time traditional Jews remember Jerusalem's walls falling to Rome and enter a three week period of mourning. To those of us who had summer's off from school as youth, it might seem counterintuitive to associate summer with a time of mourning. But the time without structure and long hot days did have pain in it, for some of us.

Think about it. The depth of summer: the rose petals fall to the ground, the stream beds dry up, we ache for cold drinks to quench our thirst, our bodies want nothing more than the relief of ocean, river, lake. There's a lot of unsatisfied yearning and potentially, pain. 

On my walks around the neighborhood I've been stopping to smell the last of the roses. Oh that smell and it's encroaching disappearance! I want to collect all the fallen petals and save them, for something! This impetus reminds me of the blown glass vessels of Roman times, tear catchers. The petals are like teardrops to save in a bottle.

In Roman times tear catchers were all the rage and in Victorian times they made a comeback. As a former glass blower (yes, in my past life I was a glass blower) these little blown vessels to hold our tears (with special seals so the tears would evaporate!) are an intriguing analogy to the month of Tammuz. In this time of mourning we have the opportunity to collect our tears, our emotions of grief. The heat of summer is like the special seal on the vessel; allowing the tears to dry up, to evaporate. As the grief leaves us, we are left with the salt of our tears. And what is salt but the key to bringing out the most potent flavor of life?

My Blessing For You: May the angels of sunlight and the angels of tears comfort you as you let the pain exist and transform, as it falls away. 

Card for the Month:
Cycles: (TSI-klen, Yiddish)

 

"Day / Night

Death / Rebirth

Fall / Winter / Spring / Summer

-excerpt from the Moon Angel / Malakh Halevanah book, Cycles #18

In this time of summer we are harvesting and preserving fruit, hanging like sagging boobs from the trees. It's right there, wanting to be picked, to be licked, to be tasted. There is deep satisfaction in the devouring of ripe fruit. But there is also sadness as we watch the trees empty.

Easy come, easy go.

Some of the ripe, rotting fruits also drop to the ground, never touching our lips. But the earth absorbs the nutrients, the animals eat those fruits. They then poop out the seeds and a new plant begins its next life.

What goes, comes again, what dies is reborn. There must be death for there to be birth. Take it easy dear people of the earth. You get lots of chances, lots of turnings, lots of seasons. Let yourself go through the whole cycle. Please.

Happy Summer.