Friday, March 4, 2011

from the heart

I am flying high. For the past three and a half weeks I've been running the 'lev yehudi' in Hampi (Central southern india), a home away from home for traveling Israelis to hang out, feel at home, do shabbat, learn/talk about Jewish stuff and life, and be cool. When people ask what the 'lev' is, i like to say, cheesily though it may sound, that there are a lot of people traveling and disconnected from their heart, so we're a place where people can come and feel at home and reconnect...but it's actually true and I get to see it happening before my eyes almost every day. The opportunity and privilege to welcome people, to be a gentle, caring, listening presence for so many people who don't seem to have that in their life has been amazing for me, to see the power of being real with people, of not being defensive, of sharing my path openly and expressing it as much in form and way of being as in content, of inviting people to connect to and express unabashedly their own self, of seeing what it means for people to feel at home and how powerful that can be out there in the world, has all been powerful and deeply affirming and fulfilling. There have been times that have brought me shivers and tingles, and I am constantly learning more and more how to be myself and what that means and feels like. This whole opportunity totally fell into my lap after a series of enabling "coincidences," as I was sitting here visiting the family who was previously here (and who had welcomed me very warmly when I first arrived in India in the north), and all of a sudden the woman, Yael, says to me, 'ulay tavo l'hachlif otanu...' (maybe you can come take over for us?)

Where did that come from???

It took me about two minutes to realize that it was right and it so has been. A few good friends have been by (Grumer, Beruria, Alana) and my friend Eyal, a 41 year old Israeli who I met a few months ago in Rishikesh, has joined me here almost since the beginning. I have so benefited from his presence. He has a rare level of awareness, sensitivity, and tranquility and I constantly learn from him and enjoy his fraternity. He has also helped introduce me to the world of inner health and the importance and potential re how what we put into our bodies (namely our bowels) has tremendous effects on our health, energy levels, psychological state, sensitivity, and the like...this should be an essential part of our education and yet it's totally out of the picture, even and especially the religious picture...
(those interested might start with the book Internal Revolution: the Key to Eternal Youth and Vitality. the author says, "My wish is for you all to die age 100.")

The retreats I did for a couple weeks before coming here, with an emphasis on deep rest, gentle retreats with lots of lying down, were tremendously valuable for me and helped me release some inner knots. Ajay, one of the teachers, is one of those people who's living rooted in olam ha'ba/the kingdom of heaven, with no ego, simply and consistently present and loving, but all with no effort. I've never met anyone like him. I also really connected to another of the teachers, who felt more this-wordly, Jaya, an originally American woman. The few conversations we had, her deep listening, her patience and way of listening and waiting for responses or insights to arise really affected me, and she gifted me as we hugged and parted with a deeply powerful whisper of 'I love you, Danny,' said with a truth and meaning hard to believe from the little time we had actually spent together. It floored my heart and gave me a taste of what it means and how enabling it is to feel deeply loved. A little later I realized that this is Hashem's love, always there to be felt, in every heartbeat and closer to us even than our thoughts. Jaya, in her way, also helped me realize that I'm curious to explore/relate to more the feminine aspects of the Divine in Judaism.
I wrote a couple poems during the retreat and continue to enjoy that medium. The first one went like this:

Making Friends with Myself
Dawn breaks, a beginning.
and the sun rises to
reveal my own loveliness
in its soft morning hues, spread
over the vast fields of my soul
And so too of yours
Harsh tones of my night no long obscuring
your face.

Clouds begin to gather,
the air is tense,
the fields wince, brace for punishment,
This storm has been here before.

comes a Voice,
from Above and Below.
Without the storm
there are no fields.


In all, I feel like my life is unfolding in ways I couldn't plan, that something is living, happening through me, and I am learning to open to it, slowly but surely, just to attend and let happen.
I'm leaving Hampi on Sunday and heading into retreat until mid-April. I'm eager, slightly apprehensive, but mostly eager. I plan to come out just before Pesach(passover) and then, as of this week, will be flying home in time for seder (and my dad's birthday). I'll be home for a bit and then going/moving to Israel in mid-May to start training to work as a counselor/educator on Nesiya, a summer program for American and Israeli high schoolers exploring Jewish identity and life and stuff, and to look for a place to learn Torah and continue my journey over the years to come.

Purim sameach. Alas I'll be in retreat for Purim, hopefully refining my ability to see and reflect the Divine in this world, but I've been thinking maybe the deeper meaning of 'ad d'lo yada' is getting beyond the consciousness where we can only see things as good or bad, me and you, us and them, and other such dualities (or perhaps this is just the simple meaning), like in Rumi's poem:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.

Thinking of you all with love, warmth, and appreciation.

(with ganga who works here with me at the lev (left) and friend 'badri')

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