Monday, September 24, 2007

Step Three: Setting Intentions

Several years ago I had the thought that setting goals was not getting me where I needed to be. I spoke this out loud to a friend I admire and she agreed. I decided I needed to listen to what has been referred to as an inner sense of knowing. I did not realize I had just begun a learning curve process.

In Hebrew wisdom the word kavanah means intention and is given much power by the sages. They taught that setting an intention created reality, what we want to happen. Intention has become important in my life. I have been testing to see if when I set an intention it really does happen. In the documentary 'What the Bleep Do We Know' Dr. Joe, one of the physicians talks about setting intentions and then checking at the end of the day to see if it happens. It is way of checking to see if I am in the rhythm of my life.

I set intentions by listening to the voice of my heart and my body. Some may say intuition. The goals I set come from the head. Intentions come from within me where if I go directly to goals first they are often externally driven. Of course that may be too general a statement. I have been practicing setting intentions first and then see the ease in which the goals evolve. Most often intentions are not measurable and the mind needs completion, checking off lists or getting an external validation.

When I take the time to be still and listen deeply I draw on information that energizes and move me forward. When I take the time to be introspective and look at my life from a distance I can begin to see my life reflecting what is important to me already. I just have to pay attention to my life.

Protecting the Heart

It is written twice in the Bible to 'circumcise your heart'. The first time it is a command, the second time it is written that the Divine will remove the covering of your heart. I wonder 'why two times?' Perhaps, many of us walk around bandaged up in order to protect our heart and to keep us emotionally safe. Some Mussar teachers say circumcising the heart is the beginning of a spiritual initiation.

When I protect my heart I am not able to access the wisdom of the heart and make decisions for my life that could make the world the better place. I are not relying on my true self that rests in a higher good place. I am not as creative, spontaneous or lovable.

Recently I have read Jerry and Esther Hicks, Steve Siebold, Rosamond and Benjamin Zander and Appreciative Inquiry have written about this with different words; yet all refer to the power of emotions and its relationship to words creating worlds. Beliefs and values are the key drivers for getting work done. Intentions set by knowing our beliefs and values can only bring me to a higher purpose.

When I set goals without intention I do this from the mind who is cut off from the heart. I am not paying attention to the body, the feelings and the wisdom that tell me what is important. I am also not using my whole brain, just the right side that makes analytical decisions. To have a mochin de'gadlute, a big mind, broaden consciousness and be more inclusive being mindful of al the elements is useful.

Why am I here? What is purpose in coming to work? I come to work for many reasons; to get a paycheck, I like what we do, I am learning and the camaraderie of the workplace gives a place of connecting with community. I come to have fun. I want to be energized. I want to play cooperatively with you. I want to be stimulated. I want my life to have meaning.

Goals are set and completed in the physical world of doing. Intentions are set and carried out through being aware of the emotional world and world of thought and Spirit.

to be continued

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Love yourself, she needs you!

Blessings of Awareness
Several years ago on a trip home from a very holy visit to Boulder, Colorado, I found this note stuck on the back of the door in a bathroom stall at Denver airport.

I believe there are no accidents and that this was a message for me and everyone else who saw it. And I know it is a universal message and up to the perceiver to discern what the words mean to them. That is my job to figure out how to uncover my heart and let me in. The Buddhist writer and poet Stephen Levine writes that letting yourself back into your heart is how we heal.

I frequently find myself giving to or caring for someone in my community or family. I am realizing that is often easier than giving attention to me. And I am trying more to be the receiver and the giver in a relationships. I am practicing with my daughters Andrea and Ilana to let go and see them as the capable, strong independent young women able to care for themselves and their family and I do not have to tell them how to do it. Just be there when they need me. Most people I know take very good care of themselves. The piece to remember for me is to include myself in the category of 'who I care for.'

Spiritual Challenge
I can always open my heart and let myself in just a little bit more. I am always surprised all that fits within this little organ that sits in the middle of my universe.

The Vav reminds me that there is an always an opportunity to come home to your heart.

Spiritual Practice
One way to do that is to have more fun. So I joined the museum so I can go any time. I take time to listen to my heart and give her what she wants, food, rest, laughter, fun, friendships.

Treating myself as if I were my own lover, friend, neighbor, child, spouse is one way of creating a balance in my life and not leaving me out of getting attention-love that I need. I whine less, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Inclusion seems to be a catch word lately; inclusive community, let us not leave any one out, make sure everyone is heard.

Perhaps the Society of the Vav is a similar venue.

In meditation I try to notice everything and yet not get caught by any thought, feeling, emotion. I am noticing and letting go as all of life is changing; if I hold onto anyone piece I will miss out on the next that arises. I would not want to do that only if I am into suffering and am sure I have found the gold nugget that will save the world and I often do that.

When I do not let the hold button keep the mind in one place for too long then I do not suffer too long and I am allowing the natural state of being on my arise. I find that smiling is so much more freeing than the seriousness of how I started writing down these words.

So what makes this Society of the Vav so important to write about if everyone else is noticing the importance of inclusion. Perhaps she is another element to help us awaken to the thought importance that we need each other. If the great Ari is correct and there is not one moment in time that is like another and therefore we are each unique then each of us is necessary in the repairing of the world and each one of us carries our unique spark to brighten the world.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Step Two: Be humble

Update, day of the evening of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, 5770: today I would write about this differently and i can see that i am changing and growing as my perspective is broader. I would support what I had written and today I would have more words to support this as i study Musar and the first Middot, humilty. I am aware of holding the tension that my shyness does not serve me and it is not all about me. The place of holding these two opposites is within the paradox of the value of humility as defined by Hebrew Wisdom.
'Your shyness does not serve you' is what my teacher sings about. Being humble is not about making yourself small. It is a combination of being confident on the outside and knowing your connection to the Source on the inside.

This is a work in progress. I am not sure how to write about this at this time however I am sure it is an important part of the process of being a leader who can make the world a better place.

I wanted to write don't be arrogant however that is a negative and I am trying to re-enforce the positive. Remember: the Mystery, your Source, G!D, all that is may not be seen.

So what does this have to do with paradox and meditation and leadership. 'Pass the ball three times before you shoot' is what the coach in Hoosiers told his star player who loved to make those three pointers from outside the key. Enable your impulse control. Work together, it is not just about you.

We need each other in this huge task of healing the world and making the world a better place.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Step One: Listening

Step One: Listening Listening to the text of my life has become very important. As I listen I have been learning how to trust myself while encouraging a deeper relationship with myself. I am practicing learning how to love me. Only my G!D loves me so unconditionally and even that is still hard to believe. No one else will hear what is in my head unless I speak it out loud. The Society of the Vav is what I heard, savored and had fun with all in my head and in my journal. Now I want to share and help her grow. I do not want to be the only one to nurture her.

When I first spoke her name out loud in Israel at a Shabbat dinner where I was a guest of my teacher, Sarah Schneider, and her other students I was surprised at the excited response. I did not know what to do with their response. The women are smart, educated, energetic what was it about this phrase that excited them? They wanted to know more. As do I.

So I have put down some of my musings to share. I do this with great excitement and trepidation. I am open to all the possibilities. One thing I am sure the society may be a collection of those who believe in listening.

Draft September 7, 2007

The Society of the Vav:
Connecting Heaven and Earth-
Living One Life

Leadership and Meditation go together like hand and glove. I am a coach of middle and upper managers. I listen to the text of peoples lives and try to help them make the world a better place for them and others. I am a rabbi, trained in reading the Torah and never settling for the superficial; believing in the intuitiveness of the Hebrew language and often thinking through, going deeper what appears on the surface. I love the Hebrew letters and find them a source of great wisdom, as do many others so I have lots of books to read.

Meditation saved my life; I learned to be able to live with myself with less verbal self mutilation. Meditation and mindfulness practice has allowed me the opportunity to broaden my perspective on my life and the world and to be kinder to others as well as myself. I believe everyone is a leader and has the responsibility of learning how to be their own teacher so that we can learn to trust ourself, trust the process and to treasure ourself. I think meditation and mindfulness practice supports that path as well as others.

Teshuvah is the practice of returning and of doing repentance. This free will moment is coming back to Here that refers to the act of one does within a meditative moment.
'We do not know how we are to serve YHWK until we come there' Exodus 10:26; ‘Where are you?’ God asks Adam. Genesis, 3:9; and ‘And G-d was in this place and I, I did not know,’ Jacob. Genesis, 28:16 are three pieces of text that can be used as intentions for mindfulness.

The idea of using the Vav when talking about leadership evolved from several sources:
  • having an i-pod and digital recorder,
  • noticing my aversive visceral response to hearing the word ‘but’
  • and knowing that life is continuous and dynamic, always changing
  • the letter Vav placed at the beginning of a word means 'and'.
Why the i-pod and digital recorder? I noticed that neither of these new high tech for the masses instrument had an ‘on-off’ button only a hold button. I knew there was something beyond the superficial reason for this so I allowed the mind the contemplate this. What I decided that we only pause life never really stop it. So why lie?

When ever I hear the word but my body reacts in a uncomfortable visceral way. The word ‘but’ negates anything that comes before it. I was taught by one of my teachers never to throw out anything, every moment or every piece of data is important. So if everything matters then we have to deal with everything. Then my mind wandered to using the word ‘and’. I also noticed that when others or I use the word but we often are saying something negative and use the word to indicate a feeling of being lost, creating a stop sign to an idea or just giving up. I am often full of hope and usually looking for how to do something especially if it is an idea that rings true to me. So when I hear ‘what do you mean we cannot do that’ then I need to pause. I am trying not to throw out any part of my life or piece of information when moving into problem solving.

The letter Vav in the Hebrew language is a ‘connector’ letter. It is the when put before a noun the translation is usually ‘and.’ When put in front of a very in Biblical Hebrew it indicates a change in tense of the verb, from past to present or future to past.

Life is continuous and dynamic and life is all about transitions, moving from one role or stage to another. In Exodus Moshe asks the Divine what do I call you and the reply translates as 'I am what I am' and 'I will be what I will be'. Consistency and emotional safety are very important for a mind that thinks linearly. If you say you are going to do something then I expect you to do it. How can I learn to trust someone to be honest, can I be honest with myself or you? My daughter Ilana once asked me to make all clocks in my home and car at the same time so that I would not lie. I had never thought of it like and changed all my clocks to reflect the correct time.

Circumcising the heart: when most middle and upper managers are asked how do they protect their heart a few will say why would you want to do that. The majority would describe how they protect their heart with distancing, placing it in a box, creating a wall around it. the heart lays in the middle of the body and is called the energy center for equanimity and beauty.
It is an important organ to teach us how to hold everything even the things we do not want to know.

Spiritual Practice: We do not live alone in the world. Friedman reminds us that the world is flat. Quantum physics informs us that our purpose in working in one place may have an effect in some entirely remote place on the earth. It is essential that we begin to think that our work has a bigger purpose and we only think we know why we are here. Being able to bring to the consciousness the fact hat we need each other and we are all connected is what the popular culture and faith based writings are stressing. If we listen to everything life is a process as Senge and et al write about in Presence.

We are all leaders and we are all a kingdom of priests. We are responsible to the earth as well as the sky, what we can see and what we cannot and everything in between, emotions and thoughts.

The letter Vav, the sixth letter in the Hebrew AlephBet, the third letter of the Hebrew name for God also represents in the Kabalah the six Sifirot that encompasses the body: Chesed, Gevurot, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod and Sod. It the letter that represent interconnection and Unification and is the symbol of completion, redemption and transformation.

In working with energy for healing the practitioner will focus on the area above and below the affected area. The area above the body is the neck and the Sifirot Da'at with the focus on communication and paradox.

Paradox has been used to describe the quiet leader and the leader who can co-create in an environment that raises the productivity of all to their highest good. In Judaism we live with lots of paradoxes; believing in a G!D that has no physical form, reading phrases in the Torah such as ‘walking into the sea on dry land’ or ‘seeing the sound’. To think non-linearly onemust be able to hold all the information and not throw one piece of data out. The ‘and’ or in Hebrew the letter Vav helps to speak the language of paradox.

Leadership Characteristics* with Places to Focus for a
Meditation Practice

Pious ~…take your shoes off your feet, the place where you are standing is holy; Exodus, 3:5
Tenacity ~ It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it." –
Pirke Avot, 2:26

Humility~…and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus, 19:6

Consistency ~The entire purpose of our existence is to overcome our hurtful habits." - Vilna Gaon, Commentary to Mishlei 4:13

Compassion ~…circumcise the foreskin of your heart and be no more stiff necked. Deuteronomy 10:16
and God will circumcise your heart... Deuteronomy 30:6

Service to Others ~ Eved HaShem and …you shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him ... nor do him wrong. The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself. Leviticus 19:34

*Sanctuary to Boardroom: A Jewish Approach to Leadership, Hal. M. Lewis
Mindful Jewish Living, J. Slater
Meditation and the Bible and Jewish Meditation, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
Society of the Vav: The sixth Hebrew letter as metaphor and paradox.
Coming to Our Senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. Jon Kabot-Zinn