Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Morning in Ixtapa

My husband and I recently went on an eight day trip to Mexico.  We spent a few days alone on the west coast in Ixtapa and a few days on the opposite coast with some friends in Cancun.  It was a wonderful, relaxing, rejuvenating getaway.

On our last day in Ixtapa, I found myself both sad to leave it behind (it was amazingly beautiful, certainly the most beautiful place I've ever had the good fortune to visit) but also looking forward to the next leg of our journey where we would be greeted with more sand, more sun and our dear friends.

That particular morning, I went down to sit on the beach.  It appeared that I was the only one awake in the entire hotel, except for the bustling employees, who were busy preparing for the day.  The beach is isolated from the rest of the resort, its rockiness not all that inviting.  But to me, on that morning, it was gorgeous and majestic, the silence and solitude interrupted only by the roar and crash of the ocean waves lapping at my feet.

The beach is set into a cliff, so it has a crescent-shaped wall of rock around the perimeter, with a mouth open to the sea.  I felt protected by those walls as I looked out in the never ending stretch of sea water, a deep, deep blue, that I found both inviting and intimidating.  Is this how it is meant to be with G-d as well?  Feeling him protectively at my back as I move about the life that is open and stretched ahead of me, that I find simultaneously inviting and intimidating, that both beckons and buffets?

I meant to bring my Bible with me on that morning, to read G-d's word while sitting on this beach, this place created through the work of G-d's hand, a place where I have - perhaps through my own stretching and straining - have managed to connect to G-d in a way I never have.  I am not a person who reads the Bible daily, nor am I entirely sure that I will become that person (though it is how I started several days of my vacation).  The Bible was forgotten in my hotel room, but I found I didn't need it that day.

I opened up my thoughts and listened.  I felt the sun on my face, felt it warm me, saw the colors change through my closed eyelids.  I thought about the sun and how it got there.  Do I think G-d put it there?  Not exactly.  But I do think that G-d, in some way, made it possible for the sun to exist.  I likened it to when I bake blueberry muffins from a mix.  I didn't make them from scratch, but I did "make" them.  I stirred the mixture, poured the batter into tins, placed the pans into the oven, took them from the oven to the table.  So perhaps G-d didn't "make" the sun, but I think he provided the mix somehow.

When I opened my eyes, the world around me seemed crisper, clearer, a different hue.  Because of the sun's light against my closed eyelids?  Because of G-d?  Both?  Does the *why* even make a difference?

I sat for a long while, watching the waves beat against the rocks.  Despite their force and ferocity, watching the waves was soothing and calming, humbling and invigorating.

I talked a bit to my dear friend from my congregation who is sharing a similar path that I am in my quest for a closer relationship with G-d.  I told her how easy it was to feel connected to G-d while surrounded by such beauty.  I told her I worried about returning home and struggling to create that same humbled feeling, that same awestruck connectedness...and she challenged me to work on ways to find that same beauty, that same emotion in my daily life and to not give up on feeling it simply because I was back in my familiar surroundings.

So that's my goal for the next few weeks.  Right now, I'm sitting on my back porch, looking at the lake and the trees.  I built a fire...which I was quite proud of until the fire starter log burned away and the flames flickered out almost as quickly as they started.  I'm listening to birds and crickets (and to the traffic roaring by and my neighbor's dog barking), but I'm trying.  It isn't easy, but I'm trying.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where Are You?

I've recently begun participating in workshop-slash-discussion group titled, "Ayeka".  Ayeka is Hebrew for "Where are you?".  It is the question that G-d asks Adam, when Adam is hiding, having eaten from the forbidden tree.  The purpose of the workshop is about how find out what you might be hiding behind, how to bring G-d into your daily life and how to develop a relationship with G-d and to embrace the transformation that those changes can create.  This is something I need and something I want...but it is also not for those who might be squeamish talking about their feelings.

The first session, which included about ten women, started off innocently enough, with a dear friend of mine leading our discussion group and setting us all at ease.  But we quickly learned that we would be asked to bare our souls to this group.  We laughed, we cried, we shifted uncomfortably in our seats, still grateful for this process that we began, some of us already friends, some acquaintances, some strangers (though, not anymore).  Bare our souls we did, jumping right in feet first, no looking back.  It's exactly what I need and it came at exactly the right time.

"Where are you?", is the first question asked in the Torah, but it is also a question I have been asking myself lately and I think, like Adam, that I may be doing some hiding of my own.  After a lot of careful thought and some digging, I realize that what I hide behind is simply more questions.  Two questions to be exact.  "What's next?" and "What if...?".  By looking ahead to see *what's next*, I'm missing out on what's in front of me.  In preparing for the various scenarios of *what if*, I'm forgetting to see what's happening right now.  Constantly looking for a schedule to adhere to, a goal to reach, a finish line to cross...that's got to change.

So by doing that, by focusing on the *now*, will I suddenly feel closer to G-d?  Unfortunately, I doubt it'll be so easy, so I'm guessing there are probably a few other things that I'm going to have to do in between.  And frankly, the thought of that freaks me out a tiny bit.

Why?  Because it's outside of my comfort zone.  It sort of seems like I'm reinventing myself and that feels strange.  Plus I don't really know how to do that, don't really know the first step to take.  I've never been a person who feels like they have a personal relationship with G-d and I don't really know what that will even look like.  I like to be able picture things, and I can't picture this.  I know I try to listen to G-d and sometimes I know I can hear him, but to think of that in terms of a relationship?  I'm going to have work hard to wrap my head around that.

But what I do know is that I want to see how it feels, want to see how it changes me.  Which is why I'd like to share it here, to document the changes that take place as a result of this workshop, to see what happens when I take time for me and for...well...G-d and for our relationship.  (That totally feels weird to say, I won't lie).

I'm thinking of it as my very own mini-version of The Year of Living Biblically, only much less hard core and without the publisher's cash advance (and also without the wit and humor of A.J. Jacobs).  Nonetheless, I hope you'll stick around and see where it leads me.