Category Archives: spirituality

Tisha b’ Av – what this day means to me

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The 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av is a sad day for the Jewish people on many levels but from it we need to derive positivity and look for brightness. The historic reason for this commemoration is the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, not once but twice (587 BCE and 70 CE respectively). But there is more…
The episode of the Golden calf (17th of Tammuz) in which the Hebrews, after their exodus from Egypt, reintroduced idolatry as a form of “religion”
The First Crusade officially commenced on August 15, 1096 (Av 9, 4856 AM), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland. A grand total of 1.2 million Jews were killed by this crusade that started on the 9th of Av.
The Jews were expelled from England on July 25, 1290 (Av 9, 5050 AM)
The Jews were expelled from France on July 21, 1306 (Av 9, 5066 AM).
The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492 (Av 8-9, 5252 AM).
On August 2, 1941, (Av 9, 5701 AM) SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for “The Final Solution”. Almost 50% of the Jews on the face of the earth were captured and killed at that time.
On the 9th of Av, 5702 (July 23, 1942), the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.
Most religious communities use Tisha B’Av to mourn the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and,
On the 10th of Av the following events took place:
AMIA bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires took place, killing 85 and injuring 300 on Monday, July 18, 1994, 10th of Av, 5754.
The dismantlement of the Gush Katif and northern Samaria Israeli settlements started on Sunday, August 14, 2005, 10th of Av, 5765.
So, yes.. This is a sad time in Jewish history… But to me personally it is a period of reflection and remembrance. As a child, the thing I remember most about this day is my dad coming home for lunch and us watching a cooking show where the chef would also sing opera. We were hungry, I was 12 years old and fasting.. And for some reason watching this show made the holiday for me. Being with my dad, appreciating what I had…many would not think of that, to me that is what this day represents… Appreciating what you have. Those memories can not and will not ever be taken from me…not by the Romans, not by the church of the inquisition, not by the English, not by the French, not by the nazis, not by the skinheads, not by ANYONE … EVER!
As I light my candle, I looked at a Picture of my maternal grandfather, Joseph Bousso, a man who will be remembered as a light in every positive soul. I showed my daughter this picture and told her this was my nono … And this is why we are lighting this candle. She said .. “But your nono is in the sky .. and we can see him all the time if we look at the stars.” My daughter is 3 and I would lie if that this not bring tears to my eyes.
Turns out she is right… While many tonight are sitting on the floor and reading the echa (book of Lamentations) Written by the prophet Jeremiah – The book consists of five separate poems. In chapter 1 the prophet dwells on the manifold miseries oppressed by which the city sits as a solitary widow weeping sorely. In chapter 2 these miseries are described in connection with national sins and acts of God. Chapter 3 speaks of hope for the people of God. The chastisement would only be for their good; a better day would dawn for them. Chapter 4 laments the ruin and desolation that had come upon the city and temple, but traces it only to the people’s sins. Chapter 5 is a prayer that Zion’s reproach may be taken away in the repentance and recovery of the people.
I in turn am remembering those whom I cannot see in the physical realm and looking for the positive that came from the worse of times for our people. My paternal grandfather was a survivor of aushwitz and birkenau and other concentration camps taught me an important lesson – “Jews do not hate! – no matter what!” – my goal is to pass this on to Jews fighting among themselves over “denomination” or who knows what else. Whether you are reform, orthodox, conservative, whatever.. These terms are just a way for our people to fight among ourselves. I can go on and on… But GET OVER YOUR EGO -remember even if you converted to another religion – you were sent up the smoke stacks. Live by the quote “love a fellow Jew – and a fellow human.” This is the gist of this day – remember – love – respect!
It is important to remember the history, but it is also important to reflect on the future and the fact that history has a tendency to repeat itself. Why can’t the country that you live it turn on a specific group, it has happened in the US. May I remind you…..
President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment with Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942, which allowed local military commanders to designate “military areas” as “exclusion zones,” from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona, except for those in internment camps.
It can happen again … If we do not reflect on what has happened. That is what this day means to me … Ignorance and indifference leads to the repetition of the mistakes made by humans in the past.
I will never forget the time I spent with my dad on tish a ve Av … It was a time of gratitude and reflection.. I will never forget my grandparents and what they experienced. And out of all this, I will use the bad things that have happened to us to learn and reflect. … Look forward … That’s what this is about. Transform the negative into positive.. Now and forever.

Celebrating the maternal on Mother’s Day – Don’t forget Mother Earth

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Today being Mother’s Day we celebrate the best women in the world, our mothers! That being said, today should be a day to celebrate that which is maternal to us. The Hebrew bible refers to the term “rachamim,” which can essentially be defined as: “mercy, compassion; based on the word “rechem,” womb, linking the emotion fundamentally to the mother.” So while we celebrate the most amazing people in our lives, let us celebrate and cherish that which is maternal to us. Can we be compassionate to another person, or to the mother we all have in common, Mother Earth?
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Service is not possible unless it is rooted in love and compassion. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Today, I saw a quote that stayed with me and is relevant to the concept of celebrating and giving back to the mother that we all, have in common, walk on, get water and food from and love. “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” In order to be this change, we must remember that the only way to change the world is one small step at a time. If we do nothing and simply take what Mother Earth has to give, we will deplete her resources in no time. A mother never forgets her son or daughter, and therefore today, we must celebrate our mother, whether we celebrate the person to whom we owe our existence or simply want to celebrate the earth where we all live. The earth is our planet and our mother. We must love her and celebrate her, what better time to do so than today?
It has become an important part of my life to give back to the earth. This is a concept comes from karma yoga and suggests that we give to the world and others without an expectation to get anything back. Even less superficial is the concept of ahimsa or non-harming to oneself or another. Ahimsa is one of the five Yamas – or ‘restrictions’ in the eight limed yogic path set by Pantajali. In order to be kind and give back, truthfully we must remember that to celebrate our planet, we need to avoid its destruction and prevent depletion of its resources. I will doing a mala, or 108 sun salutations in an effort to raise money for reforestation of the rain forest in Ecuador. This effort lead by “off the mat, into the world,” an organization bringing principles of yoga into the world. In following ahimsa – I personally believe that unless something is done, we are being selfish and not preventing the hurt to our planet.
Happy Mother’s Day! Lets celebrate the source of all our lives!

Understanding my desire to become a yoga teacher while reading “Cinderella” to my child.

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As the parent of a very intelligent three year old girl, bed time has become a strict routine involving counting five blankets as I tuck her in, sitting beside her, and reading Cinderella. while reading the same story over and over became repetitive, I took to heart the words of the ending “if you truly believe in a dream, it is bound to come true.”

I started thinking about those words and the story helped me rationalize my recent decision to attend my first 200 hour yoga teacher training. This decision, having been an extremely difficult one, started resonating in my reading of Cinderella. I really want to be a yoga teacher, but getting my family’s approval seemed to be as far fetched as Cinderella attending the king’s ball at the palace.

By way of background, I am an attorney who began attending yoga classes as a means of improving running marathons. Discovering yoga felt like Cinderella discovering her magic fairy godmother, who appeared out of nowhere and changed her life for the better. Yoga became spiritual and is now a way of life for me. Explaining this to my family could have been the same as describing a fairy godmother appearing and saying the magic words bibbidy bibbidy bop thus instantly placing me in tripod headstand. Practicing or teaching yoga is more than a doing a physical activity such as aerobics. The third limb of yoga out of 8, describes physical postures or asanas, which is what many believe, is yoga in its entirety.

After reading many articles and discussing my desire with others it seemed like an uphill climb. For Cinderella, her stepmother and stepsisters kept barking commands failing to see or care about cinderella’s desire to become someone other than a servant. The only ones to support her were her animal friends, who encouraged her a and did whatever they could to help. This is because her animal friends understood that cinderella, being an unlikely candidate, could make her dreams come true. All my yogi friends have been supportive and positive to my yogic dream of teaching.

My family’s opinion and support have always been important, through law school, jobs, and opening my own law practice. Naturally their support is essential to my decision to become a certified yoga instructor. I explained to my family that if the opportunity to fulfill one’s dream presents itself at their front door, one should take that opportunity. Especially if that something makes you happy. The glass slipper may not fit anyone of my family members just yet, but for me, as is practicing and being involved in yoga, it is a perfect fit. And just like that, by explaining that I just wanted to give others what my yoga teachers gave me, a new more meaningful life, I gained my family’s support.

As Cinderella said, “if you believe strongly enough, any dream can come true.” In this case, I start teacher training the second week of April, 2013. As my daughter falls asleep, and the story has a happy ending, I gain my family’s support. Yes, it is a big commitment, but a commitment in an ancient practice that I love and that one day I may even teach to my children. One way or another, we only get one chance to fulfill our dreams in this world, Cinderella teaches us that it can be done, and it is also a nice story with a happy ending. Why not? Namaste!

My Sadana Kundalini Yoga Experience

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Kundalini is something that I have been looking into but has always seemed mysterious or strange to me. I took a yoga class that incorporated kundalini yoga in it, all as part of a yoga challenge that I am a part of, and have challenged myself to practice yoga every day in January.

Kundalini Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline for developing strength, awareness, character, and consciousness. Practitioners call Kundalini Yoga the yoga of awareness because it focuses on the expansion of sensory awareness and intuition in order to raise individual consciousness and merge it with the Infinite consciousness of God. As a form of yoga and meditation, Kundalini’s purpose is to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others. 1

The yoga studio I attend offers a sadana kundalini yoga class every Saturday, it begins at 4:30 a.m. and concludes at 7:30 a.m. This is something I have always wanted to explore, and this Saturday I actually did. My alarm clock went off at 4 and despite the fact that my wife told me I was crazy, I felt she was right, but I climbed out of bed and drove to the studio. I felt i was going to do something special, esoterical, even mystical. I wore my Lululemon yoga pants and shirt, both which were grey and great to run in and practice yoga in. The first thing I noticed was that I was wearing the wrong color, everyone there, was wearing white, so I stood out as the novice. Despite that, I was welcomed by the teacher whom I met at the class I mentioned above, ad was told to set up, get comfortable, and meditate. When I asked the teacher about the white outfit, he simply told me it helps a positive Ora – not required but has to do with energy and how it travels through and up he body.

According to yogic philosophy, kundalini is a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine. It is conceptualized as a coiled up serpent. Literally, kundalini or kundala is that which is coiled (Sanskrit kund, to burn; kunda, to coil or to spiral). It is believed that Kundalini yoga is that which arouses the sleeping Kundalini Shakti from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushumna nadi – the main channels of pranic energy in the body. 2

The first part of class included 30 minutes of mantra meditation, and although I was nervous, because it seemed very foreign to me, I adapted. Next was an hour of physical kundalini yoga practice, which focused on fire breath and on activating the spine. As the point is to unravel the coil within the spine, the exercises and breathing definitely sent energy up my spine and through my body. This is something I have never experienced before, it was extremely energizing.

The practice of kriyas and meditations in Kundalini Yoga are designed to raise complete body awareness to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini rising. The majority of the physical postures focus on navel activity, activity of the spine, and selective pressurization of body points and meridians. Breath work and the application of bhandas (3 yogic locks) aid to release, direct and control the flow of Kundalini energy from the lower centers to the higher energetic centers. 3

Next was a savasana – or corpse pose that lasted for about 45 minutes or so.while I laid on my mat, eyes closed, my palms facing up, I took in the vibration of the gong and other percussion instruments played. The energy kept flowing from my feet through my spine and beyond my head. I am simply recounting my experience, if you do not believe me, I would suggest trying it.

Following savasana was chanting mantas and songs of peace and meditation. By the time 7:30 came around, the energy flow was evident. I felt a complete flow of energy. It has changed my outlook this week and has given me the power to discern important from nonsensical aspects of my life. I really mean that, I have focused on what matters – my family, my health and well being.

Yoga in general has changed my outlook on life, but uncoiling the energy up my spine was an experience I will not forget, and waking up at 4 am on a Saturday is worth it. I will do it again, maybe Saturday.

P.s. the practice is done prior to the rising of the sun and celebrates light over darkness.

1. Swami Sivananda Radha, Kundalini Yoga for the West, timeless, 2004, pages 13, 15
2. Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga, The Divine Life Society, 2007, page 12
3. Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher, KRI International Teacher Training in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini Research Institute, 4th Edition, 2007, page 177