Monday, November 27, 2017

Everything That Rises Up Sweet

I feel the need to balance the bitter with the sweet, so I'm writing a post to hopefully do that somewhat. I chose this photograph because I frankly am a chocolate fan, as well as the fact that it is a little tower rising up. Truthfully, I eat some chocolate almost every day. But, this not really the sweet I want to talk about. 

Because the Velveteen Rabbi's post was really about the internal sourness that we can create and hang onto, I wanted to also think about the internal sweetness that we can help rise up to make our lives calmer and more compassionate. I think it is better to hang onto internal sweetness rather than internal sourness.

I have taken the poem that Rachel Barenblat wrote and created its opposite. Here it is: 

Everything that the rises up sweet
Everything that rise up helpful
Everything that rises up out of wisdom
Everything that I am that is not sour
whether I embrace it or not
May all this join with all that 
is sweetness in others
Amen amen

I hope that I can sweep out the sour and not let it ferment in me. I hope that I can see through the fermented sourness in others to see their essence, their similarity to me. I hope that I can join in laughter and community and not let the bitter, the sour divide me from others.

I hope that Barenblat approves if she ever sees this. To see her post about Hametz, click here.

Monday, November 20, 2017

All That Rises Up Bitter

Sometime ago I read a blog post by Rachel Barenblat on her Velveteen Rabbi blog. It was based on Passover or Pesach as the Jewish Community calls it. I had copied and pasted a piece of that post into Word and printed it off. I read it again recently, and a day or so later the line "All the rises up bitter" floated into my head. 

For those of you who are wondering about the dandelion photograph, the Passover/Pesach Seder requires that those attending eat bitter herbs. That's about all I know about what is eaten at the Seder. Looking it up on Wikipedia, dandelion is apparently deemed to be one of the bitter herbs.

But her post is not really about what is eaten at Pesach. It seems to me to be as much about an internal cleansing that goes along with the cleansing of the house of all the is Hametz, or Chametz as it is apparently alternately spelled. Hametz is leaven and comes from a root word that means to sour or to ferment. This is the entire section written by Barenblat in this post: 

All the arises up bitter
All that rises up prideful 
All that rises up in old ways no longer fruitful
All Hametz still in my possession
but unknown to me
which I have not seen
nor disposed of
may it find common grave 
with the dust of the earth 
amen amen

I know how easy it is to let things sour or ferment inside me. I know that many of us are seeing much that is bitter rising up. Much that is prideful and much that is of the old ways/beliefs are getting in the way of building a new community. I think that one way we can help cleanse the Hametz out in the world is to cleanse ourselves of the bitter, the prideful and the old ways. I know that I'm not perfect at this. In fact, I had a bit of slip this morning by chastisingly responding to an email this morning from a group soliciting funds by lecturing them. Sigh. As well as the other day. Sigh. (It is so easy to let compassion and courtesy slip when writing an email or using social media.) But I do try, or at least I think I do.

I suppose noticing when I slip up is one way to work on letting all that is Hametz go. Speaking or writing in a compassionate, or at least courteous manner, when I want to speak out about something - especially where I hope to plant a seed so that someone begins to see things from a different perspective.

What ways do you cleanse yourself of Hametz?

If you want to read Barenblat's post, click here.

The first photograph is by Natalie Luchanko. The second on is by Elle Hughes. I found both on

Monday, November 13, 2017

Being Compassionate to Myself

I am trying to be more compassionate to myself, nurturing myself and taking care of things around me to create health and safety. Sometimes this butts up against my wanting to be more frugal. And, sometimes I have to breathe deeply and not be frugal, because it will cost more in the end or not be safe. 

I started thinking about this this morning because I have another issue with the car, which will cost money. I could just keep putting brake fluid in the car, but that's not wise and not safe. Yes, it means spending money, but in the long run it is so much better for me and for those around me when I drive.

Being compassionate to myself can also be about giving myself a break, about changing the story that I tell myself, and about changing the language I use about myself. It's about not beating up on myself, not judging myself, and opening the door in my heart. 

It can be about remembering to breathe through whatever is going on to keep myself from spiraling into fear and anxiety. Neither fear nor anxiety changes the situation. Moving through the situation and being kind to myself so that I can take whatever steps are necessary is the compassionate thing to do. 

I hope to then take the lessons of being compassionate to myself to being compassionate to others. 

The first and third photographs are from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be. (here) The second photo is by Fabian Moller found on (I apologize to Mr. Moller as I don't have the ability to do the diacritical mark across the O in his name.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Noticing Things

I was listening to On Being yesterday which was the replay of Krista Tippet's 2014 interview of Ellen Langer (here). Langer is a psychology professor at Harvard University. The focus of her studies has been the opposite of most psychological studies - she studies, as I recall, what make wellness rather than illness. Much of it through studying mindfulness. She was studying this long before Jon Kabbat-Zinn created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

Langer's approach to mindfulness is through noticing things as the practice of noticing makes us become present to ourselves, our surroundings and our day. She suggests that, for those of you who have a partner, that you notice 5 new things each day about your partner. I think that you could engage in this practice by just noticing 5 things around you, or about the people you interact with - whether they are new things or not.            

I once wrote a poem about moving from here to there and not really noticing in the true sense of noticing how I move around. Yes, I notice things just enough to navigate without accident, but where is my attention. This is that poem:                                                                     

The Mysteries of Driving

I remember that I
learned to drive,
but I don’t quite remember what
it felt like that first, second
or third time.
So it is a mystery to me
how I learned to
successfully maneuver from here to there.

In fact, I still find it to be
a mystery how I get from
here to there.
I get in the car, and then,
somehow, without hurting myself,
my car or anyone else,
I’m there

despite all the distractions
and things to concentrate on,
the lights, the signs,
the trees wafting in the wind,
the pool umbrellas, ambulances,
and anything else I pass.

©2017 Kathryn L. Samuelson

The photograph is from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be.