hyper-focused grading the last midterm paper. my housemate starts belting out a song - in deepest, fierce bellow - right outside my open door. my laser focus becomes soft, my belly reacts, i breathe deep to avoid getting triggered and asking her to stop. then i actually listen to the words she is singing.
This is the sea that is here with me this week. She is salty sweet on my tongue and fierce serene in my breath. I wonder into the particular medicines she gifts those who live with her, and I feel into the gifts of the land that welcomes me home, the place that offers to me most deeply and on the regular. Of the myriad reasons I live in and love the Bay Area, in the top five is that the climate and culture have space for my bare feet. Moving with my feet kissed by earth changes my life.
Really what I am remembering on this walk is that I even though my body moves more freely, I need slow as much as I ever did. I feel how much the earth wants to be kissed by my feet. How much my fascia need to feel the soil give for me to feel at home here. My feet love direct conversation with the core of the earth, particularly when I uncover them and let them listen. My body moves with ease now in most directions except straight forward. She is slow, she is undulating, she is sometimes upright, she is always snakelike. She is meeting and met by this magical far away land and the waters here with such delight. But something hasn't let me take off my shoes here. My feet want familiar. They are so ready to be caressed by the warm-ish earth, and even the familiar concrete, of home.
An elder student of mine told me the other day that she thought I started the Metoo movement. (??????) . In part because of a Metoo exercise I have been leading in Kohenet for years. And that her daughter posted a Metoo and she wondered how we had met. Not me. The movement comes from Tarana Burke, bless her. This student also - after expressing much profuse gratitude for Kohehet - expressed concern we aren't delving into sexual priestessing anywhere near enough. I breathed deeply, stayed quiet and heard her. I heard, too, the student who'd called me less than 48 hours before that to express concern that we are too sexually open as a community. The truth from where I sit lands somewhere simply and complexly in the middle, in the bodies and boundaries and pleasures of each of those who weave our community, as well as we who build the loom.
I am aware that because I am in some ways a public person - in my teaching, the albums, books and the movement I co-built and tend - people often assume they know way more about me than they do.
Yes, I share in personal ways here, and to a greater degree, in my class settings. Offering from experience is at the crux of how I teach. If you read or listen to me, assume there is much you do actually know about me and how I move in my life. And assume that there is so much you don't know. And that I prefer it that way. My favorite concert moment ever was Sade's entrance - behind a screen, silhouette slinking slightly with each vocalization. Twenty thousand of us entranced by, hanging on, the shadowed shape of her hip. The dance of so much visible & so much behind the veil is one I slide into with ease.
My dad called last night. When I asked about his weekend, he spoke of going to the funeral of the grandpa of family friends of mine growing up. Sammy was honey-sweet ~ warm-heart, raspy voice, always with a kind word, and with loving flirtations toward his equally warm tho often anxious wife. My dad mentioned that the rabbi who led the funeral is someone he thinks I know. Indeed, it was someone I know so well, who I worked for for two years, and who, as difficult as I sometimes found him, actively helped me get jobs which were formative in my development as clergy during my time in DC. The man he mentioned is someone I have gratitude for, who I learned so much from, and who triggered me plenty. Before I could tell my dad I knew exactly who he meant, he said, I really didn't like what that guy did.
My dad isn't one to critique a funeral, he tends to look for the good in a thing rather than what's lacking. But he was clearly upset about what had happened. The rabbi, he said, brought too much levity in. He didn't let us feel sad. He wanted us to be happy, when this wasn't actually the moment for that. After the service was over, he even sung dreidl dreidl dreidl on guitar. It was not what anyone needed. Let us grieve please.
i have nothing to say. that was my response to the friend who just wrote me, asking me to make one of my "long flowing posts," because he says my voice is needed now. if you know me closely, you may know that i sometimes give a fast no before finding a real yes. my knee-jerk response to him explained that i am so relieved to be far away from home and from Facebook, i got so smoked out by the firestorm in my newsfeed, the intensity of me too's and certain responses to them. i have nothing to say. i told him so loud and clear. and then found myself, as if compelled, logging onto here.
right in that moment, the love I'm here with stepped away from the NFL and toward where i had been getting work done. whatcha doing, he joked, posting on Facebook? he doesn't play in social media, and finds amusement in my semi-addiction. yes, i blushed, i'm thinking about it, but i have nothing to say. he replied, "that's never true."
As one who tends trauma healing as a vocation, the last thing I expected was to step into the collective trauma vortex of metoo when I woke up Monday morning. My experience is that trauma is most effectively healed by rooting in positive resource, by tending specific wellness - in body, in bloodlines. By telling story only in slow motion or at metabolizable pace. With depth of witness and holding. With attention to meeting any possibility of overwhelm with nourishing care. None of this is readily available on social media. None of this is a thing I've seen or experienced online in recent days.
Facebook is fast. Fast breeds trauma. Sympathetic nervous system activation is hardwired into this newsfeed - yours and mine.
While I might have stepped in because the trauma vortex was that magnetic, my sense is I stepped in more because I felt in my own system enough positive resource to navigate this particular tide with relative grace. I chose to offer parts of my story because I could without significant repercussion, in a way I hoped might be an anchor for those who felt the metoo sea too strong or sweeping away.
our conversation while walking under starlight skies, amidst towering cedars, spirits soft from lush hot springs is about where the fk we can go tomorrow to be able to breathe without being sick, and if there is any way we can show up for work and school in coming days. it is majestic where we are, and we are here because we fled smoke and dizziness and nausea. she after doing healing work in a shelter near the fires and me after being in my bed at home, struggling to breathe and to think - many miles from the fires but not far enough to breathe safely even indoors. we drove for four hours to find clear air, but this weekend the rooms anywhere near here have filled up from those fleeing, and camping is below freezing at night. brainstorming possibilities of where next, we are grateful to have resources to get us to the best option that emerges. the only thing we know is that we can't breathe well enough to go home.
This is not a woe-is-me message - I imagine returning to my rented home when the toxic air is no longer everywhere. Being able to leave, and still having a home to return to, both feel like luxury.
Many of my people in the Bay Area seem to be in this paradox of grateful to be untouched by the fires and not untouched at all. Confused by the expectation of life as normal when the air we breathe is anything but. Relieved by conversations in which people are not acting like this is business as usual, as if we need permission to name the impact of what is and to acknowledge the toxicity. Those beyond the Bay keep asking if we are safe. For many of us answer is yes and is also no. Time for a more nuanced question.
There’s a teacher thing that happens for me that no one talks about. Partway through each semester, I fall in love with my class. Not a particular student and not because of a particular thing. But in some moment that builds on all the ones before it, the intimacy and the vulnerability in our shared creation opens my heart. Fully, deliciously, poignantly, in a way that I don’t want to end.
It happens in response to the brilliant things students say, but more it happens when I experience them stretching, being willing to not know or to unlearn, and to fully show up with each other. It happens when the class is bubbling and pulsing so much that even when we are done no one wants to leave.
One night seven years ago I needed to dance. Around midnight, I took myself to a club in Baltimore that I'd been hopeful about but which fell flat. It wasn't that the crowd was younger and whiter than I usually placed myself in, which it was, but that it was full of so much beer and bright lights and talking, and such little groove. I needed to sweat, and felt frustrated and disappointed that I'd trekked all this way for nothing. I don't remember why I felt so vulnerable, but I started to cry.
Something in my tears freed me up to feel the deep bass that had been thumping beneath the conversations all along. I closed my eyes and opened my spine and let my body become the serpent she is. I moved with abandon, unwilling to open my eyes to be reminded of the boredom in the room, losing myself in the mystery of my own body loved up by this rhythm.
In time I became so entranced that I forgot to keep my eyes closed, and when I opened them the room had transformed.
I don't write sermons. I never did, even during my decade pulpit of many hundreds of people for the High Holidays. The way I am leading this year is not that - we expect to pray exactly as we would be if no one else where here, except we've welcomed those who are drawn to be amidst it all. It's taken me three years outside of a congregational job to begin to erase the notion of High Holidays as main money-maker from my being. It was real - between a quarter to half of my salary for the year was paid by funds from that ten day period. I loved so much of the work, and the heartfelt goodness of the people, but I came to commodify and pressurize my time during the Days of Awe. The stress of this period in which we we say the Book of Life is written and sealed - URGENT, repent, get it all together and fixed up, right now - is dramatic and intense and perhaps good for those of us who pay no particular attention to holiness otherwise or who need to be shook to tend things well. But I don't place myself around people who pay no attention. I live in a circle where we kiss the ground and hold each other and do our best to love ourselves and to show up to transform what is broken. We place ourselves in front of our altars and chant the Names, listen for new hymns, serenade the Beloved and cultivate our capacity to tend presence as prayer at least as often as we do anything else. My goal in the realm of Holy Days is to live alive enough during the year that these ones really do become just another amazing day.
Ten years ago, one of my private students invited me for lunch with her husband and son. I didn't want to go, because they lived on the other side of the bridge and because it would complexify our sessions. In time it became clear how much me meeting her family mattered to her and the particulars of our work, so I agreed. A few days after the lunch, I received an e-mail from her husband, a phenomenal stone-worker, asking if I would model for him to sculpt Shekhinah. His work, which I saw the day of my visit, was remarkable, and I was flattered to be asked. When I felt into saying yes, all I saw were idols being smashed, You shall not have graven images! Even though I had such images on my own altars, becoming one was another story. I said no. He pleaded. I told him I didn't want to pose for hours. He reassured me his wife would be there in support, which she confirmed. Again, I said no. He offered to donate the sculpture - which would be worth thousands - to the retreat center where Kohenet is. I imagined a naked Shekhinah me in stone at our Jewish retreat center home. I simultaneously loved and hated everything about this offer. He tempted the siren in me so good.
The holiday of slichot, a deep turn in the direction of forgiveness before the Jewish new year - which includes yet a thousand more deep turns - arrives on Saturday late night. At the midnight hour, I expect to situate myself strongly inside the hymn Ela HaSlichot - a feminized version of the gorgeous sephardi melody. Before that, I'm teaching a workshop on collective Jewish PTSD for interfaith chaplains & clergy-in-training.
I've steeped for years in trauma-healing theory and practice, and the boot camp of my own body has been a vessel for understanding and transforming Jewish trauma since before birth.
This summer, instead of certifying as a Somatic Sex Educator, I decided to buy a house. It was, indeed, an either/or like that. Where do I want to direct my energy and resource these coming months was my question and the answer was clear. I prayed for easeful openings and closings of the way and the way did it's great thing, spurning or welcoming me accordingly. I did not intimately touch pelvis after pelvis after pelvis. I came to know with nuance the real estate market in a city where I don't live. My body was not brought to healing orgasm by colleagues I'd just met. I learned my various credit scores and the impact of credit lines opened and closed simply because I'd wanted free airline tickets. I fell in love with a house and it's wood floors and the trees nearby it. I got confused by a home inspector with weird boundaries and reassured by a contractor who was solid and earned my trust with ease. My realtor became my friend and worked a million magics my way...
When I was six, I wanted to be a stripper. At 8, I wanted to author Nancy Drew books. At 14, I wanted to be the first woman in the NBA. At 18, I wanted to be a professional slam poet. At 19, I wanted to open a bookstore-cafe. At 21, I wanted to teach in academia. At 22, I wanted to be a priestess & ritualist honoring body, earth, blood & Goddess. At 25, I wanted to help people heal up their ancestral lines & to integrate the role of the erotic healer into the rabbinate. At 27, I wanted to record music.
Some of these vocation dreams have come wildly true and some have fallen clearly by the wayside.
Me: On the corner waiting for lyft. He: I was driving by and I saw your *** and had to pull over. Can I talk to you? Me: I'm waiting for my boyfriend, thanks anyway. He: Are you sure? Me: yup. He: can I give you $150 for the night? Me: nope. He: $200? Me: nope He: how about you give me your number? Nope. He walks away annoyed.
The lyft lady pulls up & asks how I am and I say Glad to see you, and recount my conversation. She is entirely offended that the dude only offered me $200, it should have been way higher. My mind flashes to states of orgasm. My mind flashes to a moment in the priestess workshop I was teaching this weekend, when one of the women spoke into transforming the narrative of time = money. My mind flashes to getting kicked out of a restaurant parking lot where I was talking to friends because the manager accused me of soliciting.
"You shall not sustain a sorceress." This verse from this morning's Torah portion is one I am energized and grateful to transform with these priestesses-in-training. We are inside an idyllic snow globe here, nurturing deep dreams and serious sisterhood, mapping rites-of-passage, holding hope and heart-break, embracing vision and action for communal and world-tending. We are an embodied, enacted existence of sorceresses, sustaining and sustained.
We are amidst rains of biblical proportions this training week. Walking between anything is not easy. Last night I lay serenaded and sometimes scared by sounds of serious storm atop my sleep space.
I open my eyes to morning light with gratitudes and truth on my lips - Water Is Life. We are in priestess training as water protectors at Oceti Sakowin are surrounded and readying for threatened violent eviction off their treaty lands on Wednesday. We are in Hebrew priestess training on mountains that were home to the Nisenan peoples until less than one hundred and fifty years ago, as JCC's are being evacuated due to bomb threats and Jewish burial grounds are being desecrated.
This trip so far, my body aches, my spirit feels slightly stale and it is all I have been able to do to simply show up. I was raw at opening circle, not even knowing quite where my vulnerability lived to offer that. I wondered how I will do - how I will be in - this week well.
The answer, which keeps coming, is Not Alone. I didn't have so many words besides gratitude prayer last night. I opened the way for our ritual sharing which we call "Me Too's."
I am up all night just like a year ago today. Then, the waking was guarding a beloved body, brainstorming a burial, packing out of a hospital room that held all the prayers, all the vigilance and all the heartbreak. Up all night like so many of the twenty-five nights before that night, when the staying woke was a relief in it's silent-ish respite in the ICU after a day of bustle, when it was whispered zikr and solo slow dance swaying toward sunrise, when it was nestling into stiff chairs that became portals that became beds that became watchtowers that became anchors of love. Up all night like in years before that, when overstimulation that led to no sleep meant raucous wee hours conversation about the days' events with this One who is now fiercely, tenderly married to God.
There is enough perfume still wafting from his pre-wedding presence to quench the desire of ages. The edge is in opening olfaction to catch his palpable scent now - wild, sweet and more richly resonant than any note that has before been sung.
sifting through so many outrageous notes from Baba. they literally leap off the screen. for public consumption now tho, these words from him that Faryn shared this morn: "...many of us are living as though our lives are someone else's occupied territories. We must decolonize our lives, for our bodies and dreams and passions are no one's occupied territories... None of us is just like everybody else: We don't have to be like everybody else to be guaranteed the right to safe and whole existences. We want to create a world in which everyone is able to discover and define and live who they are, who they are becoming, with the option to change several times throughout their lives."
i took this a year and a day ago, on baba's birthday. we had just made a late-night havdalah and were laughing that he was looking like the president of Hadassah. tonight it has me more than a lil bewildered, peeling back as many layers as i can to find yet more gratitude, and to open to the love that rains, the love that reigns.
This song ... Stone by Stone / What is Gone We Build Upon ... was born for Tisha B'av, the Jewish holiday that marks the destruction of pretty much everything that ever has been, is being, or will be decimated, along with the birth of the more magnificence than we can fathom. When kohanot gather for this holiday, we dismantle and re-mantle a circle of stones and discover so f'ing much about community about grief about possibility about collaboration about pleasure and pain in the process. Kohenet Ketzirah thank you for making and sharing this graphic - heartened to see it here.
The Geico-claims goddess I'm crushed out on tells me that my car that she considered a total-loss last week is now deemed repairable. I woohoo for this, and a much-fun car search that guides me right back home. I thank Frank - my car sales new friend - for helping me discover how easeful the process can be. He responds genuinely happy for me, with warmth and exclamation points.
The next call is from test-drive guy, inviting me to the beach...
It goes entirely different than I expect. A couple hundred seminarians crafting stellar song at the hands of a master, yes. I, however, am stunned to be sitting on the floor weeping. Baba doesn't let me miss him - whenever I have an inkling to, he shows he is closer than ever. Today, though is suddenly not like that. I weep at the palpability of his presence in the space and at the enormity of his absence, all heightened by the immense love he has poured into this particular gathering for so many years. I weep as if the tears coming through me are his, joy and pain of being beyond this. I feel his hand all over the largest ever incoming class, moving the pieces with even greater ease from the next plane. My eyes become a river ...
I'm amidst collards greens and catch-up conversation at the seminary where I teach, after our so-sweet, plenty of candles, plenty of tears, plenty of justice preached ceremony welcoming new students. Suddenly, the woman who runs the farmer's market booth where I got breakfast yesterday (see part 6) walks up to me. I'm disoriented and I ask her warmly what context she's here at the school in, but she ignores the question. Where is the dinner catered from, she asks. I'm not sure which Ethiopian spot the school ordered from, I say, but I can find out. Never mind, she says, I need to talk to you.
I intend to go to the workshop my friend is teaching - he’s here on an artist-residency in our spiritual community and I want to show up in support and to hang in the garden writing with tribe. A student drives a couple of hours to me for us to meet before we carpool to the gathering. She gets here and part of the counsel I offer has her realize that more than anything she needs to be home today. She listens to her body and turns back around. Shaken free of my plan of her as my ride, I discover that my energy, too, is moving in a different direction. My greatest excitement has me staying right where I am. I feel a quality of pristine, a state of elevation in my being that I want to nurture and tend well. I feel oddly protective of myself. I'm clear it’s not time to show up til later tonight when we are making community ritual, but I’m worried about bailing. My friend has been visioning this workshop for a while and I said I’d come. I want to honor my word and his great work, I don't want to disappoint him, what if he thinks I don't value him. My stress around not hurting my friend has shifted my glow into a state of physical exhaustion. My body literally keeps me on my floor - now I couldn’t go even if I wanted to. After a while a wave of panic / intense energy kicks in. What is going on????
A day of ceremony with dear ones in town from afar. Laying on the sweet earth where Baba is buried, the fragrance of the Beloved becomes my body. Laying in a hammock amidst redwood forest gardens, my student who is my teacher sings one of my songs with way more soul than I've ever sung it. Laying on an enormous sheepskin in front of an epic altar in an eco-palace I met an hour ago and which is now mine for an evening alone, I play a breath-instrument and read spiritual memoir. Laying on each other in the car en route back, we weave stories of becoming. When we stop, we are gifted a bushel of fresh harvested tomatoes and eggplants and peppers and every other nightshade there is. When we return to my home, we make more ceremony still. When I close my eyes I sleep as if it were for days. When I open them in the light it is to texts that my corset is still in their car and that the dream continues into this new day.
Heading home from my first test-drive, I notice a slip of paper with a hand-written note tucked under the windshield wipers of my borrowed car. Oh no, I think, what if someone swiped the car or I did damage to their car or some other wrong thing. I pull over to see that it says: "Your New Friend," with a number and name, in handwriting that feels like a smiley face. I'm walking in the world on very little sleep, but apparently that isn't affecting the mojo in the least.
By the time I'm home, I forget about the note and when I see it again, I intend to throw it away. Then I remember my commitment to synchronicity. The note has whimsy and intrigue and is way more appealing than the more forward notes with numbers that have been left under my wipers before. I never considered responding to those, but this time I pull out my phone ...
I speak too soon. My car is considered totaled. Beloved chariot, freedomobile, done. I go into a bit of shock, safety net stretched, shaky as if the impact of the fender-bender just hit me. The strands that this particular vehicle tie me to need tending, this car may be an offering up. Another chariot awaits on my street, parked there by a sister while she travels. I get in, heading in the direction of dealers. Deep-tissue work first, thank goddess for the $20/hr walk-in magician who tends me so well. The spa is nestled among a handful of used car lots. With no idea what I want, except top-down and sturdy, I make my way.
I'm wearing leopard-print pants and no shoes and remember vaguely that some people make efforts to present themselves a certain kind of way to buy a car. Fk that.