Reflecting on doings and beings

Looking back at this teaching and studying year, it seems like a lot has happened. A lot of doings. A lot of events.


Art days


Web chats

And studying

Buddhism via a few courses

Positive Psychology

Personal Resilience

In Memory – appreciating the lives of those who perished

Touring around Israel – inspecting the sites of the stories of the Bible

A School Twinning Course

Memory taught with examples from movies

Learning to Learn

Finding Happiness and Fulfillment

So many courses

I learned a lot

I listened to Mindfulness Summits.

I wrote poetry

I submitted to magazines

I taught mindfulness to grade 8 students

I led meditation sessions on my kibbutz

I led students in a new digital project and learned a new online platform

I narrated a film and then another.

And by simply being

I became a grandmother and discovered that life takes on a new super tingle just by that one switch of circumstance.

I began to wonder if I really want to continue my life as it is. Do I want to really live here? Do I want to change my daily activities? What makes me feel good? How much do I want to interact with others and if I could choose, which others?

Do I want to work with those older than me?

Or younger?

Do I want to write? And what do I want to write?

Is it time for me to reconsider living far away and devoting my time to painting, being, meditating

Or perhaps a retreat once a year is enough

I reflect on what brings the most smiles to my face. The moments fly into focus: when I taught puppetry. Helping kids create their puppets from their own designs. Helping them prepare a stage. Offering them my time and more time when they seriously wanted to work on their play.

Smiles when I met brilliant pupils who were open with me and shared themselves. Smiles when I worked on art projects and spoke eye-to-eye with young people.

Many such meetings and much good feeling was derived. These special moments of heart meeting heart are what make my life. As always. I remember from a very young age, the vibration of these precious moments when pretense is stripped away and a glimpse of understanding is shared.

Reflection on how to maximize such moments brings me into further deliberation.

As I pause on this 18th day of June.


Are there less desirable side effects to Meditation?

As the mindfulness movement becomes more and more trendy, there are studies focusing on possible concerns.

What happens when a person sits in silence for hours at a time, when that person sticks to it no matter what emotional state s/he might be experiencing? What happens when an ‘unstable’ personality is faced with the idea of noticing mental activity or unwanted emotions. What happens when that person is unsupervised or offers no hint that there might be some kind of danger when participating in a retreat that continues for days on end?

There are studies being conducted and studies show that not everyone is equipped to deal with vypassana retreats.

Reminds me of the studies that showed that not everyone can deal with intense walkathons, fasts, or the intensity of high achievement in academics. Not everyone can slide through a new experience and come out shining.

Should there be a disclaimer when a meditator registers for a Silent Retreat? Eventually, there will be. A registrant will have to know that just like in yoga when the instructor reminds us to pay attention to our body, not to over-extend, so will the facilitators at a retreat. One will need to be aware that the mental and emotional stretch of hours upon hours of meditation might bring about side effects. One will need to be ready and able to judge if it’s cool to continue or if a short break is needed.

You might be interested in listening to this podcast given by Dr. Willoughby Britton on The Dark Side of Dharma about research being conducted.

Dr. Willoughby Britton

Thanks, Dr. Britton. The more we engage in an activity, the more facets we will encounter.



Passover Thoughts

A break from classes. No class relax last Monday, this coming Monday and perhaps only half a session the Monday after that.

I’ve had time to step back, pick up some books for my own practice, and note down a few observations.

Here’s my list of Spring Cleaning of the Mind Post-its

  1. Wish students well and then step back. Contact should be positive and easy.This is no time to keep a tight leash.

  2. Wish myself well and repeat often – Lovingkindness meditation. More than ever, self-kindness is a well-needed nutrient

  3. Clean my space and throw out what I don’t need and check the inventory of what I’ve so diligently collected

  4. Allow new connections to form. Get a step away from old traditional routines emphasizing others, allow for the chance to vibrate to a new beat. Top suggestion – open the book Search Inside Yourself and let Meng provide some inspiration.

  5. Do something I love. Do it. Sing, make puppets, practice.

  6. Eat loquats.

    loquat2 (1)

  7. Investigate location of sense of humour and encourage it to reappear. This is a challenging one. Where has my humour gone? On-going search

  8. Do not take everything personally. Not everything is an assassin hit. Not everything is intentionally pointed at my sore spot. Probably not anything. Listen and detach.

  9. Do not take, but notice and appreciate. It is not necessary to own a moment or a comment. Appreciate it as it appears.

  10. Drink water, walk and listen to body. The physical form needs attention. My own schedule, no need to postpone food or rest because of an externally imposed agenda. Listen to what I need.

  11. Old habits? Are they still around? Notice. Who said that the thing I once worked on to conquer forever is truly gone. When I least expect it, that thing might just be leading me into past paths.

11. Meditate. A lot. Whenever and however. Investigate new guided meditations from new voices. Find the sounds that inspire me to focus.

Read. Eat. Walk. Hug. Drink. Laugh! Smell the blossome. Listen to the birds. Move on. Offer what can be given. Do not hold back.

Spring is the time for affirming what it is I’m doing on this planet. My time.

Neurobiological changes explain how mindfulness meditation improves health

New research from Carnegie Mellon University provides a window into the brain changes that link mindfulness meditation training with health in stressed adults. Published in Biological Psychiatry, the study shows that mindfulness meditation training, compared to relaxation training, reduces Interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress, unemployed community adults.

Source: Neurobiological changes explain how mindfulness meditation improves health

Pupils with PTSD, teacher with mindfulness

So, this week I read in one class’s Whats App group, that I don’t know how to get mad.

stop, pause and continue.

This was an interesting comment and brings me to think about how I appear from a student’s point of view, or at least that student. Who is the student, one might first need to know.

He was presented as someone with problems, who can fly off in outbursts of rage and that as teachers, we are not to yell at him or go ‘head-to-head’. We were told to leave him alone, and to respect his learning accommodations so that he could function at least during tests.

This particular student made the decision with his parents’ agreement to join our Partnership 2gether Project, a living bridge connection between some of our 7th grade students and Bet Shraga school in Albany. We communicate via New Year’s cards, posters, internet joint projects, emails and of course through Web Conferences.

This said pupil conformed to the first few requirements but stopped at the 3rd and 4th. No card made, no youtube clip made, but he wanted to come to our meeting this past Thursday when we would be working on a joint Tu B’shvat project (birthday celebration of trees and plants) and then a Hangout with our partners in the US.

When I instructed them to pick a plant or tree native to this area, pupils got busy choosing and learning how to work with Google Slides. This pupil ,maybe I’ll call him “M”, chose a hand grenade. In Hebrew, hand grenade is the same as pomegranate. He thought it was applicable. I told him to get to work, and to choose a proper plant.

As I was walking around the room, I saw Tal, the head of the entire Partnership 2gether Project in our Western Negev area, take the computer from M and tell him that he was formally out of the project. M got up, kicked the computer cupboard and left the building.

A few minutes later, other pupils started to say, ‘Hey! My picture disappeared.’ ‘Mine, too’.  and more voices chirped in until someone said – ‘It’s probably M!’

I went outside to inspect. Sure enough, there was M, reclining on a bench outside the Grade 7 building with his phone in hand, clicking onto a picture and pressing delete. I looked, uttered a reproof and quickly took his phone to prevent further damage.  I went back into the classroom and removed his name from the joint Google slide file.

He came in, took his phone, left and as we all prepared for our Hangout trans-Atlantic conversation, another pupil came to me with a Whats App conversation in his hand. ‘Judih, look at this! Take him out of our group!

Then the phone rang and I got busy answering.

While the phone rang and my US partner and I worked out the bugs, apparently little M was busy trolling our whats app group. I  removed him from the Whats App group and carried on.

We spoke to the kids! The kids introduced themselves, said thanks for shared Chanukah cards and were happy to talk. We then presented the Tu B’shvat idea – ours and theirs. And we signed off.

Meanwhile, M decided to take his complaints to my regular English class whats app group. He explained that for no reason, he had been removed from the Project group. He had done nothing. Then, only because I was incapable of getting mad, I took his phone.

When I spoke to his homeroom teacher, I reported some of M’s chosen phrases to post in our chat group and I was told that the things he said were typical (calling us all “Hitler lovers” and “may you all burn”). I was advised to update M’s mom and especially emphasize the fact that his phone was a key player in the drama.  (The phone being a sensitive object in M’s life)

M’s mom informed me that his use of a hand grenade as an object for focus is a known phenomenon with him. She told me that he’s PTSD and in any situation remotely possible, he’ll revert to weaponry to express himself.

This was new to me. No one had previously mentioned this. One would think that a pupil having PTSD would be information worth sharing with his teachers. But now I knew.

And as I ponder how to deal with this student, I recall his words that I don’t “know how to get mad.” I wonder what constitutes getting mad. Is getting mad yelling at them, turning red? Is getting mad punishing them till they want to shrivel into worms? Is just a little punishment considered getting mad?

If M is judging my show of anger in relation to his own, I expect I should start kicking computer cupboards and finding interesting curses for my students.  Kicking something is good, but only with protective shoes. Cursing might work if I can think of something in a Shakespearean style, perhaps.

Food for thought.

Thanks, for listening.


So, what about my Grape Fast?


School breaks for the Sukkot holiday in the fall, sometimes in September, sometimes October. The Hebrew Calendar works on a movable system. And that makes it seem new each year. The weather can be horribly hot or pleasantly cool. You never know what you’ll get.

Also, it’s a delicious respite from the heavy load of schedules and testing pupils. There’s no fear of authority figures in Government ministry jobs suddenly demanding something of me. They’re working half-days, no time for a small civilian like me.

It’s a true time for replenishing all sides and dimensions of the self.

So I had a choice to make.

There was a vipassana retreat during the break. Should I go and leave my mate and children in order to meditate with a sangha of others?  A noble option.  But, I wanted to be home. I wanted to wake up when I wished. I wanted to enjoy being in my own environment. Perhaps, I’d actually do work to prepare my puppetry workshop, get a literary piece ready to be taught. I wanted to study Tibetan Buddhist Meditation  on Coursera and participate in the online Mindfulness Summit.

I wanted to flow. Choice made. I would stay home.I could study and prepare and meditate and take walks!  

Decision to do our annual Grape Fast!

Mmm grapes
Mmm grapes

Gadi went to the kibbutz store, bought grapes and then he went on a further trek to buy more grapes. We would be eating only grapes and drinking water for how long? Five days or so.

It works like this: every 3 hours, we’d eat a portion of grapes, chewing the seeds well.  If hungry, we’d snack on grapes. No problem. We drink water.

It’s a de-tox diet. Because of the nature of grape sugar, it doesn’t require effort by the liver to break it down. Hence, this respite allows the liver to detoxify.

Day 1

Usually the first day, I’m ravenous. I was! I had a huge appetite in the morning and hunger levelled off in the evening.

That night, lying down, I noticed some weakness in my calves. It was strange to feel. I hadn’t done any unusual forms of exercise, just my usual routine and a usual walk of 6 kms or so. Nothing unusually strenuous. Was it the first sign of flu? To be seen…

Day 2

My calves were so uncomfortable that I couldn’t find a sitting position to ease the feeling. And worse…the ache was slowly working its way up to my thighs. This was worrisome.

I felt tired. I didn’t feel like making puppets, though I tried. I didn’t feel like talking to people. I wondered if I had a fever. I tried to rest, but couldn’t seem to get comfortable.

Only walking really felt good.

I was a lot less hungry, but ate grapes, choosing between concord (super sweet), red (slightly less) and green (more watery). I also found that when I got up from sitting or lying down, I’d get dizzy.  Hmmm, low blood pressure.  Could this be cause I was un-caffeinated? In fact, what was going on?

How many toxins did I have in my body that were starting to make themselves heard?

That Night

Calves hurt. Thighs hurt. Pelvic bones hurt!  What? Me? You must be kidding. And a slight fever!  Was it just a little flu, unrelated to the grapes?  In my heart, I didn’t think so.

Day 3

Not having slept, I woke up confused. I did my usual routines, meditation and exercise and then went searching on the net for possible confirmation that I was simply feeling the side effects of the grape diet. Sure enough,  there was mention of muscle pain and mild fever. Okay. That seemed to be in the right direction. But, on the other hand, what if all the calcium in my hips was breaking down and turning to powder? The non-caffeinated mind has no limits.

We continued to eat grapes. No real appetite but still we continued. We took our long walk. I felt fine walking. I guess my bones were still in place and functional. But I couldn’t sit, or lie down without discomfort.  Gadi was fine. A short headache that passed quite quickly. A momentary twinge in his lower back, which soon was gone.

Surprise Visitor

We suddenly got a visit from our son, just back from Canada. He was coming home for a visit. Gadi warned him that we didn’t have any food. We were grape-ing.  The wheels of my mind began to turn. Hmmmmm.

Dare I stop the fast?  That little thought attracted some inner smiles.

Ahl showed up. Gadi made him coffee. I got to smell it.

And a decision was made. I announced that I was seriously considering stopping the fast. Gadi was amazed. But we said we’d do it for 5 days at least!  I told him he could continue but I wanted to stop. He told me that as a team, he’d stop too. We would go shopping. Pick up some vegetables and eat a real meal that night.

We did. Huge salad with Gadi’s incredible vinaigrette and his amazing vegetables.

That night.

I felt good. Pelvis felt fine. Legs felt much better. I slept.

What if?

The Day after,  Gadi read to me: The results of a grape fast can only be felt after 3 days.

He went on: “Next time, we will continue. You’ll see that things will get better. This was a sign that you have toxins to expel.”

Ah, grapes. I guess it’s true. I’m toxinated! I drink coffee. I sometimes use a fake powder to lighten the coffee. I eat rice crackers.

Other than that, I’m pure as pure can be. I breathe the air – no choice there. I eat the vegetables that grow in our soil. There’s no real way to conquer that until our own vegetables sprout from our own soil, shielded from the spraying of the kibbutz gardener.

Lessons learned

It’s amazing what physical pain does to the mind. It depresses. It makes life seem harsh.

When pain disappears, optimism returns. Everything is effortless or at least can be after a little meditation or reading a heart-warming story.

With pain, nothing seems to help. The will to be creative might be there, but it hurts to dredge it up.

Without pain, oops, it’s back! Or if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter. Look at that face. How wonderful. Or listen to that child’s voice! How miraculous.

Pain. How many people carry themselves painfully. How many people deal with a  chronic suppression of all that’s joyful because of physical suffering?

Note to self: be kind to all. Perhaps they’re suffering and don’t realize how it’s affecting their outlook on life.

Grape Fast. I thank you.

Till the next time.

It’s Time to Meet my Inner Organizer!

It’s time to meet my inner Organizer.

I need her now, to stand in her full light, full abilities and efficiency. 

There are tasks that must be immediately addressed. Oh, Inner Organizer, appear! 

I’m not joking. This is serious.  Just look at this list of items that are carouselling in my head.

Task One for Teaching Puppetry for Excellence to pupils aged 9-12

  1. Break down the steps of puppet building in order to create a series of visuals. This needs to be ready by October 12th.

  2. Make a list of all the supplies required to teach 60 pupils in 3 puppet workshops. By Monday!

  3. Decide which items  can be donated from my own supplies. This would be good: an act of de-cluttering while offering generousity and compassion.

Task Two for Teaching Mindfulness, the Language of Attentiveness to 8th Graders

  1. Organize the Mindfulness classes into pleasant cue-cards for easy reference.

Potential further task: Home Check:

  1. Would be nice category: What needs doing in the house – decorating, rearranging, acquiring, repairing. Prioritize and make a list

I know it’s time to call in the Organizer

For her everything is basic logistics. She takes the necessary facts and arranges them nicely into viable and comprehensible steps in order to arrive at a desired result.

The Organizer is so very skilled that she attracts energy and light and makes everything line up into clearly doable chunks.

She brings relaxation to fight or flight jitters. Calm replaces chaos.  

Who wouldn’t love working with her?

It’s time for a visual as I call her forth.

Expert-Sandy Maynard

I call upon my inner Sandy Maynard: Life Coach extraordinaire.

With her, any task is as simple as eating delicious grapes. Buy them, wash them, put them in a bowl and start in. One two three and you’ve got yourself step four! Yes!

mmmm grapes

mmmm grapes

So, awake, ye Inner Sandy! Comb hair. Brush teeth. Wear a clean shirt. Fold arms and smile.

Let’s get started!

(what? first coffee? Okay. Deal!)