It’s good to have a spiritual goal when living in Israel.
Now, I’ve always been drawn to the self-help world in NY and later LA. But what stands out about this experience in Israel is that whereas previously, my fuel for these kicks typically came from icky, lurking feelings of inadequacy; here, I just feel good and as a natural extension of that, want to continue to take care of myself and do good for myself. (Imagine!) I mean, quite effortlessly I’m eating healthier (thanks to the most delicious fruits and veggies on the planet for cheap!), exercising all the time (thanks to the 7 hills of Jerusalem and my central apartment), getting enough Vitamin D (thanks to the summer sun), feeling young and sassy (thanks to a rockin’ tan and the Israeli ‘tude), and am thinking clearly (thanks to the welcome absence of MTV, raunchy billboards, the rat race, and the ‘compare-and-despair’ mentality that’s so prevalent…ummm, everywhere else!). Sababa!
And so, when on top of all that blessing and goodness, I also realized that for some reason I’ve merited to live in the holiest place in the world, literally, in Hashem’s nest and most inner sanctum; it happened quite naturally, intuitively, and from the most pure of intentions that I just wanted to be closer to Him. Not because I’m feeling lack, but because I’m feeling full.
So, when I say “spiritual goal,” I mean that I’m “taking something on” that will push me to be a better me. Typically, these spiritual goals involve lifestyle changes or character polishing. But instead of saying, “I am going to do -X- mightily and alone, bwa ha!” You say, “Hiya, Hashem – it’s You and me, babe! Let’s do this!” And knowing you’ve got the ultimate partner, you go forth with gusto, part of an unshakable team.
Now you could say, “Oh, silly Lara – Hashem’s with you everywhere and so you can work with Him whenever, where ever.” And you know what? You’d be super, super right. BUT! It is different here. Sorry. Kind of a bummer for folks chootz l’Aretz (outside of Israel), but a major opportunity while one’s here.
“The air in the land of Israel makes one wise.”
Talmud Bavli, Bava Batra 158b
I’m hardly a religious nut…(maybe more of a spiritual fruit)…and although Hashem is everywhere, there is a direct line to Him here, a different and special connection. It’s like this: If the switchboard of the world is in front of Hashem and day-in, day-out He’s answering calls—when you’re in Israel (and especially Jerusalem, hello?!), you’re accessing the red phone on the side with the flashing light. It rings and Hashem answers no matter what, “Hey Lara, what’s up? What’s up? Lay it on me. I gotcha.”
I mean, it’s not so hard to understand. My mom and dad – classic Jewish parents – are always wanting to know what’s going on, and are trying to help me and be there for me as much as they can and as much as I’ll let them. Now, when I travel to Texas to see them, they’re so happy to have a full house that they hop around trying to take care of me even more than usual. “Want something to eat? Drink? What can I get you? What an occasion! Let’s do something special, and won’t you stay longer?” Being in Israel is exactly the same – you’re visiting home. And so, when you’re here, Hashem gets super excited and wants to be there for you and do for you like a doting parent.
So, my spiritual goal: I’ve decided to take on daily, mindfulness meditation and chats with Hashem. This is a practice I’ve done sporadically for a while. Whenever I do it, the difference in my experience is unmistakable. Days can remain fast-paced and koo koo, but the mindfulness allows me to be present for my life! To experience the koo koo! Good or challenging, I’m there for it and there for myself – and as a result, I notice more, the goodness feels sweeter, and the challenges rock but don’t swallow me. In terms of my yappity yapping with Hashem, I chat in my own words. I basically spill my guts, ask questions, request favors and feedback, and give kudos. And from this I get clarity. I get answers. I get guidance. I get magic and surprises and fun. I feel connected and I usually find things working out in clever, unexpected and positive ways.
With all this in-your-face goodness, why didn’t I do this earlier? Well, I’m not proud to admit that I sometimes get lazy and sloppy, antsy and complacent. Occasionally, that little part of me that’s mean and disparaging can get the better of me, and I don’t do what’s in my own best interest. So, in the past, I’ve let the practice slide, despite knowing that it’s a lifeline to blessings and peace. No more! Now, I want my practice to become a true practice - a non-negotiable, sacrosanct and cherished part of my day, as indispensible to me as my mom’s morning coffee is to her. (And believe me, you don’t want to get between my mom and her coffee. You’ve heard the term “insta-human?” Bidiyuk (exactly).)
So, being a fan of positive reinforcement (and basically a 4-year-old at heart), what did I do? I bought stickers! Yes, I made myself a calendar and bought smiley faced-stickers that say in Hebrew (yeah, that was so cool for me) things like, “kol hakavod!” (all the respect), “avodah yafa!” (great work), and my favorite, “naki v’mesoodar” (clean and orderly) – hopefully an accurate description of my brain after all this meditation!
I am shooting for a daily practice, but to challenge my perfectionist tendencies, will be ok with 5 days a week for now. My meerpeset (balcony) has been a dream for this observance; I look forward to going out there every morning. Trees surround me, but I can see over them to the balconies of neighbors with their bright pink and red flowers blooming. As I close my eyes, cool breezes rustle my hair and the smell of vanilla coffee percolates. It’s beautiful…and timely.
Next week I begin a 10-day program where I’ll be skipping out on ulpan (Yeah, good luck to me catching up on all that – yipes!) to live in the Old City. What a zchut (merit) and what a perfect opportunity to practice being present and connected, nachon (right)?!
Wish me luck and I wish you lots of connection, presence and presents.
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