Jewish Journal

Joy Time

by Michelle Azar

October 9, 2012 | 1:12 pm

The thing is, I don’t want to leave my sukkah. I know, it’s time to move inside, to stop shaking greenery all around, and just let lemons turn back into, well, lemons. But  we only got the darn hut up in full regalia a couple of days ago, AND it's southern California, of course I want to remain outside!

Furthermore, this time period is called Z'man Simchateinu, season of rejoicing. Why wouldn't I want to  linger in Joy Time??

I used to hate hearing about joy from the Jewish context. It felt so negating of the times that joy was just too far away to reach. I felt that I had to choose one feeling state over another, the happy person in a joy time, or the more sad person in a difficult period of reflection.  This sort of fragmenting of myself showed up everywhere. I felt for years I had to be EITHER the actress OR the Rabbis’ wife. Either the yoga teacher or the yoga student. Either the seeker or the leader. The mom or… you get the picture.

Yet, the more I learn and live, the more I see the illusion in that perspective. I realize the power that comes in integration. Integrity. The ability to be with and present the whole person in acceptance.  As the Sanskrit word yoga actually means to yoke, viniyoga teacher and Yoga Sutra scholar Gary Kraftsow says, "Practice, contemplation, meditation, and working to transform yourself lead to the qualities of an integrated human being. "

Reb Nachman of Bratslav, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov and a seminal figure in the history of Hasidism, wrote that a person should allow himself only "one hour of a broken heart a day", and then, the rest of the 23, demand of yourself joy. I Love that. Reb Nachman was known to serious bouts of depression, so perhaps he was trying to find a way to remain in the world he was brought into, by working toward  integration, with some serious boundaries, of his opposites. My drama therapy professor from N.Y.U., Dr. Robert Landy, taught that the sign of a healthy person is one who can live within the ambivalence of oneself.

Yes, balance, breath, practice, it is all the same sermon. Finding your “core” through trial and error, and knowing that as the official z'man for simchateinu ends on the calendar, it opens up for many more moments. We can turn our complexities into courageous action by coming inside.

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Michelle fell in love with the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, the system of Hatha Yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, some 13 years ago while doing a play in San Francisco. Having...

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