time to consider


Circles – welcome home

It’s been a while since I had a nowtherapy session, but it’s time.

I want to begin with a given: teachers have anxiety-ridden, stressful jobs. Night and day, a teacher copes with the intricacies of the human condition with respect to past experiences, future worries and the present-moment quandary.

This is a given. There’s research and data and potential solutions in the form of taking on a beloved hobby as a regular pursuit, or making a deliberate break in the day to stop ‘working’ and devoting oneself to non-work thoughts.

This is true. All of it. Yet, what about teachers who also live in an environment under constant threat of explosives landing in their communities, or on their bike trails, or in schools and kindergartens? What about those teachers who live in an extreme location and have their nights interrupted by alarms of incoming rocketfire, or simply rocked by the earth moving after a bomb explodes?

What do those teachers do? How do they cope? How do they do the job of easing pupils into the fine art of opening their minds to learning?

Running the obstacle course of feelings and anxieties becomes second-nature. But just because we’re used to it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t do harm, doesn’t wear us out, doesn’t surprise us each day.

How much of our soul is being whittled away? How much of our heart is scarred from direct hits?

When we turn off our computers and telephones from regular media input, are we able to turn off our rocket alarm apps? If we do, are we able to sleep through the sounds of booms?

How do we get nourishing rest? When are we off the grid?

Is there a physical check-up that can determine how much we’ve aged, or have been malnourished from the tolls of the job on top of the tolls of living in a warzone?

In brief, it’s a problem.

Briefer still, there’s a remedy.

It’s called detachment through involvement. Build a puppet. Rehearse for a play. Create a bookcase. Paint a canvas.  Delve into veganism. Master a perfect soup or cookie or sauce. Tend a garden.  Dance alone or with others. Take up meditation, or mindfulness.  Develop your voice.

Any of those or numerous other options are there for our benefit. We pick, we enjoy, we heal.

Wellness is a self-applied process. We can engage in our own therapy. Only we know what makes us smile inside. We know how much is enough, or not enough, or when we want more.

In my personal therapy, I apply haiku therapy. I engage daily and it’s a start to refreshing my mind. I meditate daily. I re-enter that inner zone of quiet. I make puppets and explore my quirky vision of human-ish creatures made of foam rubber, paint and glue.

These are mine. And even with these therapies, I still know that I require constant doses.

The outer world isn’t getting any softer, and as luck would have, this syncs with the phase when my inner world is softening.

Wellness is a self-applied process. Only I know how much puppet-making will do the trick, and only I can fill that prescription.

Note to self: if I don’t manage to sneak away into my puppet shack, I can pull out puppets in other contexts and have them speak out. The use of puppets in a mindfulness workshop helps to cultivate attention and enriches that reservoir of playful energy.

Any dosage of puppetry works just as well! Fortification from an unexpected source!

My inner smile confirms!



The body knows

The mind may try to take control, using logic to describe reality, but the body knows.

The body reacts quicker than thought to day to day life.

The body signals physical changes – a sore toe, a bruised knee, an empty belly, a tender back, a body relaxed, a body tensed. The brain receives and sends out feedback. You’re impatient today – no wonder! Who can function with an ingrown toenail? You have every right to your new perception of the world.

Emotions kick in. One specially good connection with someone else, a serendipitous meeting that leads to a breakthrough and a fantastic team effort! Life is magical again. But a missed chance for interaction, a lack of communication with someone, a wall between us that just won’t crumble, and I’m tossed to the opposite side of experience.   My reactive emotions work on me – each minute, each day.

Or my observation of mental changes. “What’s his name?”  “Who is the composer?”  “Author?” I knew these things just a few years ago! Or, suddenly all kinds of minute details take their place in fired up synapses – no problem. I know the exact word, I recall that exact experience. Something I couldn’t recall when I so desperately wanted to, is now firmly within my lexicon. Day to day, my vocabulary shifts, my reservoir of clarity swells and diminishes. This I’ve come to expect, like the impossibility of a permanent weather forecast.

My condition is no doubt also yours. Each of us slides through a life forever in flux. Our own particular set of circumstance leads us through a unique experience of life.

What about the changes of outer experience? We can expect plumbing break-downs, power-outages, a leaking roof. I’ve become accustomed to a lack of leadership on the kibbutz, self-centered forces changing the brilliant idea of community into a common living zone where greed and envy are visible, where only the minority still believe in helping the whole before themselves.

I see changes in my school, from the personal tragedies of student or colleague, to a policy change decided upon by the Education Ministry or even our Principal. Where red-tape takes a teacher’s attention impinging on her ability to devote herself to her students.
Such changes are beyond my control, yet they immediately influence my existence and I have come to count on it.

All of the above are part of my life. So many factors that come and go, in and out.

Living beside the Gaza Strip, in what’s called the Gaza Envelope, I also live with the unexpected from beyond the border. These days, we are bombarded with incendiary kites, booby-trapped helium filled balloons. Our fields and forests ablaze, we breathe in the smoke, witness the blackening skies. There are alerts of rocket attacks or mortars headed our way. We know that we need to be 15 seconds distance from shelter, most of the time.

If we turn on our local news, we are graced with commentary suggesting imminent war, or shrieks for change of government.

My days are filled with invisible tensions as I wait for the next attack. The sounds of bombs, or helicopters or planes pervade my soundscape. The experience of quiet is a sudden shock to the system that takes a few minutes to comprehend.

Taking stock of all this, how is it possible to counteract the influences that daily, insidiously, seep their way into my bloodstream?

There are techniques, lots of them! Daily, I meditate, exercise,  breathe fresh air and bike. I do chi cong, t’ai chi. I chant, I paint, I write. I do what I can to keep the flow in motion, so as not to store up anxiety.

So, what happens when I leave my home for a trip to Canada?


The first thing is that I feel cool weather. I walk amongst green that I seldom see in the Western desert.  I witness people who wear pastels, who talk of simple life situations. Few of them are glued to a cellphone (something that is unknown back home as everyone wants to be reassured of everyone else’s safety at every moment).

At night, I rest easier. I don’t keep an ear glued for an incoming rocket, or the shriek of peacocks who often accompany the thud of a falling bomb.

My shoulders relax. My back doesn’t ache. As I find bok choy aplenty in the supermarket and lush varieties of lettuce, my body comes to realize that I needn’t tense up at the slightest sound, or constantly be on the lookout for random threats.

It’s a difference that I can’t yet fathom. It’s been 3 nights in Canada. I wonder what other changes will manifest?

dealing with sadness

a year after

thoughts of death

heart re-grieving

meditation therapy, one year after my father’s passing.  Okay, got it under wraps.

Then comes Tuesday night, with constant Red alerts. My phone app repeats again and again, which of my friends and neighbours are being ordered into their shelters within 15 seconds. On my kibbutz, life goes on until 2 a.m. when we, too, are ordered to the shelter twice within 30 minutes.

Morning arrives for me at 4:30 a.m and all’s well until once more Red alerts begin at five a.m. School buses are on standby until five-thirty when we’re told everything’s fine for returning to normal living.

Our English department has been geared up for running our second highly organized, multi-stationed English Day, this time for the seventh grade. All teachers rally, send their own little children to kindergarten or to school and show up to don commemorative shirts and organize their stations: obstacle courses, Bedouin tents, Hanoch Piven portrait stations, falafel making, poster-making, map making, theater and dance stations, to name only a few.

All goes well. We do it. We are immersed in alternate learning and the pupils respond well. We clean up and head home. Wednesday has been offered and delivered.

Then comes the post-trauma

cracker and peanut butter therapy

hanoch piven style art therapy

guantanamera rhythm therapy

Adi's chapeau
Adi’s chapeau

I think I’ve got it under control. But that night, I can’t sleep, I’m buzzing, and I wake up on Thursday with a feeling of vulnerability. Gratitude for the chance to lead a classroom mindfulness morning.

I coast along through Thursday’s classes, looking forward to my mindfulness workshop. Today’s topic: being the change. If we find ourselves unable to alter outer circumstances, we can shift our own perception.

Happily I invite in the participants and hoping to draw on our last workshop when we came up with solutions, I’d like to offer the chance to experiment with our own perceptions and how to notice our inner responses to an event.

When I introduced the theme, T asks for a chance to talk about the war we’d all just been through, a mini-session and a major trigger of all previous wars in our area. I assured him we’d address it right after we began with a short breathing meditation to connect to the present moment.

Some of the boys couldn’t get into it, and they bothered others. This was no time to remove students, since I wanted us to feel that all were welcomed.

Being the Change didn’t seem to make a dent in what they needed to talk about, as each expressed anger at the Hamas in Gaza, at the civilians for voting in Hamas, at their attacks on us and on world opinion which seemed bent on placing the blame on us, on Israel.

The session was what they needed. The session was not what I personally needed since my own personal sadness was being given serious reinforcements. Sadness for their predicament, sadness for the predicament of the civilians in Gaza, sadness for the impossible situation in which I was currently living.

Sadness for the lost optimism, sadness for lack of hope in these kids, sadness for me being unable to magically snap my fingers and create a better present moment.

Tears are ineffective in such cases of sadness, and although I let them fall when the last student left the workshop, they barely made a dent in my well of sadness.


all things pass. This too is but a cloud in the huge blue sky of life. But attention to the cloud is valid, for out of recognition comes self-knowledge.  No point ignoring the cloud, for the cloud is indeed stubborn. And rather than allow it to fester and infect other clouds, observing it and honouring its presence might allow the infiltration of light.

Worth a try.


Mind and soul nourishment – after retreat

It’s been almost a week since I’ve detached physically from last weekend’s retreat in Ein Habsor with Ven Rita Riniker. This weekend she’s holding another retreat in the north. My friend called me as she was making the northward journey and I mentally re-visted the energy she’d be re-joining.

After last weekend’s retreat

It’s a gentle process, the disengagement from the task of sitting quietly, looking within. First to show up are the smiles of appreciation to those who joined the activity, to my friends, to my family for driving me to and from the sangha and to myself, for appreciating the importance of such a weekend and showing up.


judih- 2003ish

This week has reinforced that lesson. Showing up is at least half of the work.

No sliding into automatic habits, no ignoring the needs of the inner mind, but showing up. Sitting in meditation. Listening with an open ear to others. Being available to answer those who need me. Being ready to say yes to a new challenge.

The tendency to list all the tasks that I’ve taken upon myself and then feel overwhelmed is an easy thing to do. But this week, I was quite focused on taking it one thing at a time, organizing the steps into manageable items. This created the necessary space for relaxation, much more enjoyment and pleasant anticipation.

Note: The fact that we had changed our clocks over to winter time and that the entire week was characterized by jet lag and inconvenient body clock demands added one more interesting hurdle to the mix.

Another take-away from the retreat

If I’ve had good experiences, and I know that I ultimately enjoy what I’ve chosen to do, then why add anxiety into the mix? A calm mind adds space, adds ease.  With a brief body scan, I can discover the scrunch of my shoulders or the wringing of hands when anxious thoughts pop into the mind. That little bit of attention  often works like a gentle caress, enough to neutralize the physical manifestations, and smooth the mind.

Body, mind, emotions – yes, they’re connected. The stories that take over the mind roll into physical tensions and emotional concerns. Is it difficult to notice a tense neck? Nope! How about a nervous voice? or a wrinkled brow? no and no!

Noticing is a wonderful ally.

This week in school, I was worried. What? I need to prepare so much! I must meet with so many! Yet, I also promised myself to insert fun into my days. (What? yet another promise to keep? Fun?!)

Yet, the to-do lists were completed. And by the week’s end I received a lovely surprise. A student approached me to ask if I could teach a meditation workshop to 9th graders. Right now I’m slated to work with 8th graders – which has turned out to be a poor fit, not many are interested. So, I started the wheels turning towards making this happen. It only needs a Principal’s okay and a slight dollop of creativity and we’ll be on our way!


the inner mind

warms with expansion

and a huge smile

Weekend retreat

Fall hasn’t seemed like fall. Warm weather. Sandy paths.

This weekend is a change of season for me. A re-connection to roots that seem to be deeper than my memory. A renewal of feelings that have been dormant these past months.


Our retreat is with Ven Rita Riniker, who is here in Israel sponsored by the Israeli Friends of Dharma. We’re meeting in the Eshkol Council Moshav, Ein Habsor.

Friday morning group: More than 20 men and women from this Western Negev area have gathered ready to listen to new information, to renew our motivation, to share a common experience.

We ask questions, we practice.

Rita is charming, and funny. Translation is provided by Irit Lahav and others, and the bilingual messages sneak into our consciousness (and subconsciousness, no doubt) and when the message lands, we smile. Some laugh.

She spoke of karma. “It’s like ordering something over the internet. We see, we like, we click, we buy. Then months later we receive the item. Like it or not, we ordered it. And it’s very, very difficult to cancel!”

What we have done in the past becomes part of us and we attract the energy that we put out. Our thoughts, our deeds, our past experience create our karma.

“We cannot always be happy. Even I am sad sometimes.”

Meditation is not an instant remedy or secret formula.

Anger is present, but through meditation, we can address the situation with a clear, calm mind.


(to be continued)

a few moments to consider

Many years ago, in 1999, I began the ritual of writing morning pages a la Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way. At that time, I felt a surge of energy previously unknown.

Everyday, I’d pursue the adventure of watercolours. I’d sit in the light of a window, pull back my futon and play with water and pigment to see what would happen. Everyday a surprise, an experiment!


cavern, judih watercolour 2000

Evening walks under the stars, often shooting stars that would reaffirm the magic of living. Bursts of conversations with strangers that fueled creative fireworks.

Then, one day, I stopped. Why, I know now, was based on reaching the chapter in the book where it is required to give up reading for a week. That exercise seemed insurmountable and I just stopped working the course.

Watercolour painting stopped. The surge of energy kept going based on natural centrifugal force. I was no longer a battery.

Batteries have pluses and minuses.

The minuses were of dubious benefit to mankind. I had a long-distance cyber romance that ended a man’s employment as a computer teacher. I met up with a sad individual who expected the moon and received a handshake. While I applauded others becoming couples,  I felt my secret world pull me away from my own relationship. As I became vastly excited about my inner fantasies, I was less eager to blend with another.

Turmoil and re-evaluation. Bad? Good?

I learned that the super energetic revolution that I was experiencing was a phase, vital for me in order to embark on a new path. I went to my chosen therapy: psychodrama to work out the nuances of what I’d been repressing since childhood. I saw and understood what I wanted to do and I admitted that it could be achieved.

Energetic rebalancing. Not a matter of plus or minus but a matter of clarity of recognition.

I write this as I consider that period in my life when a young woman graduated into womanhood and that ‘maybe someday’ became “what the hell am i waiting for?”.

Not that everything immediately fell into place, but my intention became more clearly focused. I chose to reconnect to my dream of higher artistic education. I chose to deal with a morass of bureaucracy in order to fulfill that desire. Once the choice was made, the path followed.

Eventually, I enrolled in the Creative Arts in Education M.Ed offered by Lesley College and there I finally experienced school as it is meant to be. I found a lush ground for exploring my own curiousity, and found professors, authors and other students who were equally ripe for opening their minds and trekking past prior limitations.

I connected with my own love of research and the quest for answers based on real experiences.

My thesis on Using the Arts to Focus Pupils with ADHD was based on real-life interviews and research. I gleaned common ground from so many sources from various disciplines and, on the way, I learned of many therapists who work their method to help people with ADHD rediscover their own focus through art, movement, music.

My battery re-charged through the rhythm of the research and writing. And it still regenerates as I use mindfulness and creativity to help myself and pupils locate that inner pearl that hums within us all.

Morning pages began a process for me. Perhaps it could work for you.


midnight to do lists

Since I got back home from Canada, I’ve been waking up a lot, usually between one and two a.m.. Perfect hour for suddenly obsessing over something that I wish I could activate in my mom’s sphere of existence.

Two nights ago, I remembered her car and how it’s between owners. She wants it sold. My sister’s family wants to buy it. Between regulations and possibility there’s a no man’s land and only they know how to traverse it. I can do nothing. Yet, the situation chose to show up in my stream of consciousness and I somehow latched on. Meditation put it all to sleep.

Last night, I hooked onto the passing thought of my mom’s need for an emergency pendant or bracelet – something she can use to get help in a hurry. She’s alone. She needs the thing. Here I am 9000 kms away but there I was, visualizing her mounting the stairs, each day a new ‘phew’ of accomplishment.

“What?” harps the voice. “Are you going to wait for her to fall?”

‘Oh my god’ whispers the one a.m. conscience. “A pendant! A pendant!” it repeats. It imagines the shape, how to wear it. The weight of it.

Again I head off to the safe room, close the door and turn into a soothing meditation. This time, however, no sleep. Only delicious relaxation and then energizing. A few online segments of  “Younger”  and then the app got stuck.

Except for the digital stuff, I know that this kind of scenario is what my Mom experiences. An idea appears and then another, and another,  and her sleep situation crumbles to dust. She doesn’t do meditation but she tries classical music. No avail. Ideas gallop in a steady beat, bringing relatives to storm the corral.

Now, here I am, at five twenty a.m.  This is the hour of respite before the summer heat descends. The first birds begin their songs.

Over in Australia it’s already noon. My family is divided into seven hour time zones. Each of us in our own private time warp.

Perhaps one day, I’ll sync into someone’s deep sleep zone. Till then, the radar is on.