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.

Planting the seeds of a Sangha

*Sangha – means ‘assembly’

I live in the Western Negev, on Kibbutz Nir-Oz. If you’re unfamiliar with it, this location is  remote, far from most cities,  public transportation infrequent and early final buses back to the kibbutz. Also, I don’t drive, I bike.

I also meditate, daily. And I have learned that the more meditation in my day, the better. How especially true this feels – this first week home, after doing a Vipassana retreat. 

The wish to maintain that inner silent place and keep it alive is very strong.

In general, it is suggested that the meditative way begins at home with daily practice. It’s important to augment this by going on retreats whenever possible. But the third branch of the work is equally important and that includes regular meditation practice with others.  The mutual support is empowering. One’s personal group is called a Sangha

So, because I don’t have ready access to a group of meditators, I took a walk to investigate our Open Centre, the building that houses alternative therapies and some sedentary exercise. I opened the doors to the wonderful experience of the smell of brand new parquet flooring and the quietness of the space. Here was a room where in the past I had done some meditation of various sorts with various people.

However, now it’s all brand new. The space has been carefully restored after having taken a direct hit during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. A rocket had crashed through the roof and devastated the entire building. Fortunately, no one had been inside at the time! And that which had been gutted and destroyed, is  completely fixed. The room is  ready for new meditative activity.

On a whim, I walked into our communal laundry facility, and there I spotted C, the one responsible for who does what in the Open Center.

I shared my thoughts about wanting to meditate in the space and she helped me decide to open up a meditation practice and invite those who wanted to sit with me. We decided on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m and she agreed to publicize the practice, giving her own number and mine for those interested in making contact. 

A day later, she announced that one person had called her and was planning on coming. One was fine! My plan was to sit for 45 minutes and meditate and hopefully that one would sit with me!

Thursday came along and surprisingly enough, the Tel Aviv bus brought a visit from my beloved son and his girlfriend. She’s an avid Vipassana goer and was happy to see the Meditation invitation  posted on the Kibbutz Dining Room bulletin board. She was in. So we would be 3. My son wanted to come as well! 4.

At 7:20, I gathered a Tibetan singing bowl, a mallet and my meditation cushion. Off we went, me, my son and his girlfriend.

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When we arrived at the center, I saw the one who had indicated interest and then I saw S! S is someone who, in my wildest dreams, I’d have never imagined showing up! But there she was. My heart opened. I invited them in, to take mattresses and to get comfortable in the meditation room. I turned on the air conditioner. Someone else turned on the fan and we readied ourselves.

The One told me that 40 years previously, he and another kibbutznik had begun meditation sessions. But that had fizzled out and he, himself, hadn’t been practising. S had never practiced in her life . Okay, I thought, 45 minutes of silence would not really cut it.

I decided to work along the lines of how I teach children – dividing the session into 3 –  meditation lying down, sitting and then standing.

I set my timer and began with a few instructions guiding them through a body scan and then how to notice their breathing. Hoping to keep them relaxed but still aware, I eased them from lying down to sitting. Then someone else showed up at the door and came in to join us noticing the breath. After about 12 minutes of sitting, we transitioned to standing, first checking our balance, and then noticing the breath.

To wrap up, I included some metta towards ourselves, repeating the phrases “May I be safe, be healthy, be happy and live in peace.”

My own meditation had to be carefully included between checking to see if they were breathing, or sleeping, or with me. Instructing is not exactly meditating and that was not what I’d hoped for. But people were there. They wanted to know what meditation was. This was good!

We finished. It was pleasant.

The next day I was approached by 2 others who also have never meditatedbut who wanted to try.

This sangha will be slow in the making. It’s clear that first steps will be to learn about noticing the breath, and how to be aware of thoughts that  come how to allow them to do so and release them.

And how sensations will come and go. And emotions as well.

Letting go. Setting them aside, and coming back to noticing the breath. As Shuli from the Vipassana at Ein Dor had said- when these things fly into our awareness, I offer them a seat in my ‘house’. A good image – noticing them, recognizing them and setting them someplace else while going back to the business of noticing the breath.

I like that. May the house be filled with enough seating!

rumi house

Offline, Off-phone, off book, off-pen for One Week

So I’m about to go on a Vipassana Retreat

First time.

You might have heard of Vipassana*  I had vaguely been introduced to it when every April during School Break and each summer during the vacation, a group of birkenstocked or barefoot walkers would appear on our school campus.

They were at a Vipassana Retreat, I was told. This apparently entailed walking in silence around the campus, around the library, the English room, the Science building and after a while, disappearing and then doing some more walking. I thought it odd that no one spoke. Then one day, as I was moving books from the Bomb Shelter to our new library, I noticed one of the silent walkers talking on his cellphone and periodically looking furtively upwards. I averted my gaze and then went back to staring when he wasn’t aware of my presence.

What kind of retreat thing was this? And how serious a Vipassana could this thing have been if it allowed this kind of blatant shirking of its principles.

Vipassana

Well, fast forward several years – perhaps 15? And here I am, signed up and waiting for my chance to silently walk. No birkenstocks, but I have acquired some comfortable Crocs and that, surely, is acceptable. And I will silently sit. And I will silently eat my meals. And in silence, I will pass my mornings, even with roommates. And I will surrender my phone and therefore live without internet or what’s app or facebook, or my haiku site.

This is all most unusual for me. I don’t have any buffalo hide Indian sandals or Indian cotton shirts that might actually stand me well for next week’s superhot weather predictions. I can only bring what I have, non-Asian tourist garb – jeans shorts and a few t-shirts.

I guess that’ll do. I don’t wear my hair in an upsweep. I don’t have dredlocks. I don’t wear a turban. But I do have natural hair colour and I am willing to go a week without make-up. Who will care if I have or don’t have accentuated brows? And I have scarves that can double as hats when the sun or wind requires such garb.

I have a new meditation pillow, ready to break in. All outer gear is ready.

meditation cushion

meditation cushion

What I must reckon with, however, and this is very difficult, is that for one week plus a day, I am not to write.  or read!

This is a killer situation. I’ve been known to give up perfectly useful courses for tapping into my creativity, when they demanded such gestures of non-attachment.

No phone. Ok. No computer. Fine!

But no write, no read?

This is, well, I’d like to know what you all think. Can it be done?

I wonder.

Wish me luck! If I’m still capable of doing so, I’ll update my experience next week.

*”Vipassana’ as a word comes from the Pali stem for ‘Clear Thinking’. Sounds good, no?

Meditation – solo style

For the past almost 3 years, I’ve been lucky enough to supplement my morning at-home meditation sessions with class relax sessions at school with pupils and teachers.

judih in dance of meditation
judih

This has provided me with a kickstart in focus – so badly needed these days. As I interact more and more with others, I find my output of energy increasing. To keep a reserve, I need reminders to halt, to center on my breath. I enjoy the sound of the tibetan singing bowl, a call to come back to my body and my rhythm. So what happens when we go on a Passover break?

Where do I get my built-in reinforcement time when the routine changes?

This is a question that needs addressing. Whether flying overseas with the shifting clock or simply slipping out of regular, trusted schedules, the opportunities for meditation show up in different guises. One needs to recognize the need and grab the chance.

While I transition back to Israeli time, I find myself awake at all kinds of strange hours and then sleepy when I’d normally sit.

My heart races in the early a.m. and it dozes off mid-afternoon. So, when do I choose to meditate?

I’m beginning to see that anytime I think of it, I need to do it! simple! the more, the better.

Will this help me ease jet-lag? Perhaps. Will this help me cope with my fuzzy brain waves? It can’t hurt!

But while I’m away from classroom support systems, I can use my insight timer for spot sessions or listen to the guided meditations of Sharon Salzberg, for example, or any of the other meditations offered. I can chant to Snatam Kaur to keep focus on my voice. I can draw mandalas to engage my sense of colour.

Solo style allows for experimentation. It’s a gift. And it’s a pleasure.

Oct 3rd into Fall

Q. How much meditation does it take to turn on a brain?

A. Not much, but also a lot

Each day begins with the usual range of activities including the most important – morning sound meditation. I focus on posture, breathing and sound. I hold onto the image of a purple blue spot of light under my eyelids and I chant.

Result: better voice, better feeling, happiness.

Each school day I begin by conducting a meditation session with a class – each day a different class along with their homeroom teacher. I scan the room and decide which meditation to use – with or without music, with or without a video clip.

Result: better feeling, better connection with others, happier homeroom teacher.

There’s a pattern here. Meditation = better

There is a quantity required, no doubt, before all those amazing statistics roll into play – higher grade point average, better focus, stronger memory, reduced anxiety and stress, reduction in violence. There is such a quantity and it’s been measured.

But for now, i’m working on observation and accumulation of good feelings.

Meditation is better. It’s better when practiced in a group. It’s better when encouraged with positive feelings. It’s better than not having such a tool when such a tool is needed.

How much? I plan to find out.

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So, what’s new – June 3/2014

It’s been almost a year that I’ve been involved in MindCET.

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This has been a first-time pilot bringing educators together with entrepreneurs. We were offered lectures and guidance and hands-on seminars in how to build a start-up, how to think creatively, how to present. We were given workshops in how to present our idea and hone it to a form where people understood what we were getting at. We were drilled in how to hone our idea until it became feasible enough to form a site or app.

I started the year with my idea of building a meditation app – something that would know (via handheld phone) when i needed to time-out for a breathing session. the app would warn me and then offer me tactile methods to take that all important break.

That idea warped into a cocoon while I was asked to work with another educator who was building an app for interactive Museum visits. I loved the idea and we worked with imaginative advisers and UX designers.

Till she shrugged off the idea.

I went back to re-think my Meditation app.

Slowly it passed into the idea of a site where I could offer meditations.

Now it has become interactive and in a few weeks I’ll be presenting it in a big Demo Day called MindBlitz!

MindBlitz-60-1024x801

I’ll be practising my presentation, remembering my words and the statistics to back up my interest.

That’s what’s been going on with that.

I’ve been teaching puppetry to a group of 8th and 9th graders who are talented in various ways. They are very different from last year’s group who worked well together and fed each other’s differences within the framework of the puppet stage.

This year, I have individuals who have expressed themselves visually through their puppets.

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I’ve been running the Partnership 2gether project between Albany and our school in the Western Negev. These students have met via Google Hang-out since the fall and have worked on various projects including mailing one another gifts, and drawings, and ID cards. They’ve participated in online bulletin boards like linoit.com and google chats. They’ve played online Charades. But the big fail was a lack of independent chats – whether facebook or google

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Most of the American kids were not digitally connected – perhaps because of their age.

Will the project continue next year? I hope so! I want to see Dorit my partner in the project!

End of school year means end of teaching 4 classes as well.

I still have plans – to complete my haiku book

to finish my series of puppets which I’ve been working on this entire year – usually on Saturdays and school holidays.

To visit Toronto in the summer.

To finish a pilot for my Meditation site for implementation in September.

and so, this is nowtherapy – a brief review of my year – it’s been a while since I’ve had time for a review.

nothing deep here – but a skate-through – and a smile

No School – orders to stay close to shelters

So, on one hand, it’s fun. No school. Yay!

On the other hand, it’s a pain in the ass. Why should my life be interrupted by a few rockets fired at my community?

me in my pyjamas

Still, how to spend a day when given a chance to spend it at home?

There’s completing my comments for report cards. Done

There’s posting polls on my class facebook pages. Done

There’s offering online quizzes for students who might be bored or interested enough to try to learn something. Done.

There’s offering online songs with spaces for fill-ins for those students who might be teased into learning something. Done

Then there’s chat

and google hang-out for attempting to have a meeting.  Not done, but perhaps in the making.

And homework. Spiritual Resistance in the Ghettos during WWII.

Spiritual Resistance. Doing whatever it takes to raise the morale when faced with oppression. It’s fitting. So my puppet was a good meditation guide this morning when my meager brain was insufficient. And I up the joy of practicing puppetry together with a repeat session of morning meditation.

Spiritual resistance. When the body is told to stay put, the mind soars