Tag Archives: slowing down

Praying in my Pink Pajamas

One of my favorite books, by Ellen Frankel, to study when I’m wanting to engage in Torah. This book is essential if you want to have an engaged relationship with the stories in the Torah.

So, yesterday was Shabbat. It was also January 21, 2017 and almost everyone I know and members of my family were at protest marches all over the country. Friends in France, England, Ireland and all over the world were protesting. I stayed home and put on my pink fuzzy pajamas (in solidarity with all the pink pussy hats) and said some prayers and studied Torah.

I watched the protests unfolding on my phone and on Facebook. I felt the energy and the hope and exuberance and the anger as well. I am in a counter-current to almost everyone I know. My internal river is moving very slowly in a circular mellow eddy, where I am gathering leaves, moss, rocks, and sticks. I’m crafting something entirely other and different from what has been. I’m not at all in the main stream right now. I’m in the inbetween, in limnal, milky and birthing something different waters.

When I started reading the Torah portion, I was not surprised to see that the story for this day of protest and this week of intense complexity was the story of a wicked ruler/Pharoah who ordered the killing of all Jewish boys upon birth. It’s the story of resistance, of Miriam (the Prophetess sister of Moses) and Yochaved (mother of Moses) and Zipporah (wife of Moses) and Batya (daughter of Pharoah) and Shifrah and Puah (midwives). All Biblically powerful women who did not follow orders, who resisted the violent, crazy powers. They did so with cunning, with solidarity, with creativity and with courage. I encourage you to read this piece of Torah, it’s pretty powerful stuff.

Pink on Pink with Torah portion open to Shemot which corresponds to Exodus 1:1-6:1

So, the story of today, for me feels like the story of thousands of years ago. And while there were signs saying “It’s not 2017 B.C.E” all over the protests going on. Part of me is thinking, yes, actually it is. We are still navigating very similar territory and history is cyclical, circular, complex and has an intensely long arc. I believe there has been and is movement towards goodness and caring and kindness that is huge, but I don’t think we are ever free from certain dynamics.

This is why the Torah is still as alive for me today as it was thousands of years ago for my ancestors. It’s still telling the story of how to navigate life and all the challenges we will certainly encounter while we spin on this planet. It’s still advocating resistance to injustice, solidarity with those who are innocent, vulnerable, different or endangered. It’s still asking us to lead with kindness and goodness and to believe in goodness not just in our minds but in our actions. This is a radical thing to do.

What does active goodness look like? It involves a deep engagement with hope, with trust, with caring, with service, with soup-making and helping others in whatever ways one can. It involves extending our circles of love beyond ourselves and holding the suffering of those near and far in our hearts. It’s not a mental activity, it’s a full-bodied, full hearted, whole self involvement.

I try not to watch the news or participate in the cycle of crazy information that will pull me out of this internal eddy I’m currently in. If you want to understand this practice and my reasons for this read: Open Hearted Elections..

There is something here in the non-news zone to explore that is not angry or fast or stimulating. It’s the slow steady turning of life and love and the knowledge in my bones that I am here to serve and that this is a life-journey, not a sometimes-when-I-feel-like-it-journey. My children are adults now, my youngest just turned 20 on January 20th. I’m shifting my current and looking for how to best honor the Holy One in the coming years. I’m exploring how to flow into my best aware service in consistently trying, even more complex, and intensely challenging times.

Climate change is real, anger, sexism, racism, bigotry of all kinds, belligerence and violence are real forces on this planet. They are not the only forces though. I cannot battle these forces, I have no battle energy currently moving through me. I have tenderness, I have vulnerability, I have clean the kitchen and make soup energy, I have love my friends and family and community energy. I have pray in pink fuzzy pajama and study energy. I have dreaming energy and hoping energy and writing energy.

I have a strong desire to listen to the elders of all wisdom traditions and try to do what is wise to do. I’m very grateful to cede the territory of battle, protest and shifting, on a larger scale, to those who are called to do that kind of work. I don’t think we all serve in the same ways and I don’t think we need to. I’ve been on the front lines and this is not my time for that. I also trust and have Bitahon (absolute trust) in the Holy One, whose plans are not knowable or known to me. This teaching below is an hour long, and crucial because it informs how I understand this period of time we are living in. My teacher, Reb Zalman, May his memory continue to be a blessing, talks about this time as being a time of Axial turning, not a paradigm or quick shifting. A turning towards goodness and change that is several hundred years long, not one or two generations. This resonates for me right now.


The closest I can come to understanding what is impossible to understand is to fall back on what I know is true. What is true for me is that I feel more bound to the effort, than the outcome and to the means and not the ends. So, I will continue to pray in pink, swirl slowly, make medicine, listen to folks in need, help when and where I can, honor the Sabbath, and send out messages when something surfaces that may be of value to others.


Bone Time


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Dunmoran Strand at sunset between storms in Skreen, County Sligo Fall of 2015

My bones are cozy and waking up at the moment. It’s 7:00 a.m. in Ireland at Holy Hill Hermitage on February 16, 2016 as I write these words. The wind is swooshing and whooshing at 22 mph, which is about average for the last few months of storms. My bones don’t go walking when the wind is that fierce, but the view of the trees and the ivy dancing and shaking fiercely is quite inspiring. Because I’m in my sabbatical hermitage time, I do not have to battle the wind or go anywhere physically. In my cabin, named after St. Clare, I am dry, warm and safe. I’ve been here since July of 2015 and will be finished with my sabbatical by May of 2016. I am 51 years old, a Jewish Lay-Leader, Mother, Writer, Cook and Healer (all in capitals with intention). My hard-working bones and body needed a year-off between raising family, being very active in my community, and moving into the second half of my life. My body was exhausted, which is quite common for anyone who cares about others or the planet, even if you are not a parent. I was literally limping when I made it here and in constant pain.

By the time you reach 50, which is young, really, but as a woman it marks the transition years of menopause; everything gets drier, bonier, your emotions, your whole physical reality shifts massively and you feel it in your bones. Not everyone works their systems as hard as I’ve worked my body, but all of us need respite and time to contemplate and allow for bone time. Time that is slower, time that is not rushing and that is deep and structural, bone time.

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Detail of Nicole from Branches of the Trees, mixed media on board, 2014 by Helen Redman

It’s a common fallacy, propagated by the media and society everywhere, that speed is better, youth is better and all of our technology and systems are designed for the opposite of bone time. Youthful healthy happy bodies are great, and often as the old saying goes “wasted on the young.” But, trying to perpetuate a young, speedy body is not great and actually exactly the wrong direction to go in. Our bodies are Holy vessels, gifts from the Divine, sacred vases to hold our souls.

It’s lovely to inhabit a healthy one, even an aching one, but they aren’t our permanent homes. They are our transitional dwellings. If we are only body, pleasure seeking and speed focused we never engage with our souls and their needs. Not connecting with our souls is wreaking havoc on the structure of life on our planet. If the earth had a skeleton, her bones would be broken, from our lack of regard, from fracking, from ignoring the call of her rivers, all her creatures (including human suffering) and all the messages being sent from her soul and her bones.

When we stop and listen to the wind, or to the silence, or the birds, something magnificent unfolds within us and within the larger home of all our bodies. All of a sudden we get to hear the music of the Divine, and the lament, however we name that. You cannot hear that music as easily if you are rushing or just focused on looking good and feeling good personally. You hear and experience your soul and your bone-marrow knowing, when you are quiet, when you are engaged in loving or helping others, when you are in contemplation, prayer, communion.

Nicole Edit in Stream Ireland
Last ** mikveh in the small cold stream outside my cabin, in prayer, communion and bone- chilling cold April of 2016 at Holy Hill

I’m not saying that the way one feels after moving in an aerobic or physically strenuous way isn’t also important or can’t get you to a feeling of connection. For some folks that is where they experience their only sense of communion. I do not think that we can ever, at this point in human history, say it’s possible to have enough folks seeking communion. All of us need to listen more to the call of our bones, to the marrow of the matter. We have to SLOWWWWWW way down and hear our beating hearts and watch the birds or the river or the clouds, or listen to the symphony with our whole beings and offer thanks to the Holy One.

We all have to search for the link connecting us one to the other, where I am part of this earth’s structure, her pinky finger or one tiny filament of bone in her being and you are another. We’ve been gifted with bodies and a home for them to live on, not attending to the WHOLE being of that gift, the gifts of our souls and of our interconnection and need for each other wounds us all and is literally bone-crushingly wrong.

I’m in a state of perpetual tear-filled gratitude for my bone-time, my down time, my slow time to be with the earth, with folks in gentle prayer and song. I’m also grateful for the long walks in the hills and the help of Healers and Holy Wells and all the ways being engaged with the earth in my body and bones is working to ease my pain. I try to walk gently on the earth and hope that my time here is a gift to her and to those few folks I have and do encounter on retreat. I pray with the wind and the frost, the sunshine and rainbows between storms and all the birds of the skies here for all beings to be well, to find each other and to be engaged in deep communion, bones, bodies, hearts, minds and souls all together in reverence, service and joy.

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Trinidad Beach, in California, 5:30 a.m-ish, looking for quiet bone time back home in May of 2016


This piece was originally published in the Spiritual Life Institute’s Fall 2016 publication: Desert Call

**I will be writing extensively about Mikveh, my practice with Living Water, streams, Lagoons, the Ocean and other bodies of water that are living in the near future.

Rest and Digest ummmmmmmmmm not something I am used to doing

Moi/me in my pannier in Paris asleep and digesting yummy mommy milk. Nicole Asleep in her Basket by Helen Redman -1964
Moi/me in my pannier in Paris asleep and digesting yummy mommy milk. Nicole Asleep in her Basket by Helen Redman -1964

Rest and Digest

Normally I don’t need to do either of these very much. I’ve never had digestive issues, nor have I needed much rest. Normal is no longer the norm for me. I’m in a cycle of slowing down, being tired and actually for the first time having a little trouble digesting. For someone who has been bouncing around like Tigger or Wonder Woman for almost fifty years, this is a “sea change.” It is not one I am excited about, but also not something I feel I have any control over. I just can’t do the mind over body calculus anymore. The effects of life lived at this pace and level are catching up to me.


There are a number of factors connected to all of this, some of which I will write about in greater depth in one of the many books currently growing in my mind. Part of my need to rest is absolutely related to this impetus to create and the gestations that are going on deep in my being. I’m no longer birthing children, but I am beginning to  grow several longer and larger projects, and just like children evolving inside of me, energy and resources are required.


Some of the fatigue is related to my ongoing thyroid trials and tribulations (more details to come in the future on this). There are physiological reasons for my fatigue that are real and complex. I am addressing these and have been looking at them for the last year,  with great concentration, time and in-depth. Solutions are not just emerging from all my efforts, and how hard I’ve been scratching, experimenting, researching or trying different medicines and regimens. The reality is still somewhat occluded. Occluded realities require time and energy to navigate, so this is tiring and very time-consuming.


The other piece of my fatigue is about being in Peri-menopause, heading towards home plate and hoping to soon be done with bleeding away so much of myself every month. The loss of blood I go through and have gone through every month of my life since I was twelve, (except for when I was pregnant), is of epic proportions. I’ve been anemic as a result most of my life and have to supplement with iron, iron rich foods and generally crave meat in a very insane way a day or so before I start bleeding. I am often down and literally need to be in bed, for the first two to three days of my cycle.


So, all of these factors are playing a part in my need for sleep and calm and time to digest. It was my acupuncturist, Lupine Wread, who told me “You need to Rest and Digest.” She is helping me understand that I am in a new phase and that I have basically exhausted my parasympathetic nervous system from years of giving and doing for so many folks. Normally, I just source from the earth, from The Divine and from my husband (I am a secret vampire), but lately that hasn’t been enough and my sympathetic nervous system is now saying, “sorry girlfriend, we can’t just run the show anymore without you taking some serious down time.” I just cannot run, run, run anymore, and that is okay.


There is a gift in this, when I am not feeling like a slug. I like slowing down and the need for it is so clear that I cannot ignore it. I just don’t have the electrical capacity to go, go, go anymore. I may get some of that back as my systems get sorted out and after I have spent serious time resting and digesting. I may not. I am so much more internally focused right now and I know this is not just something happening to me.


It is a function of entering the “crone” or early crone, phase. I’m moving towards being an older woman. In September I’ll turn 50. I know there are women running marathons into their 80s and I hope to be doing a lot of wondrous things between now and whenever I leave the earth. But, this is a time of slowing down before I take the next curve in my  path onto roads unknown in my life. My youngest will be graduating from high school come Spring of 2015 and there will be no more children to raise or instruct or guide in my home. I will be free to pursue my own path without needing to address the needs of others quite so much.


Of course, serving the Divine, is my always path, so I will be addressing whatever needs come up related to that, which, of course means other peoples’ needs. The difference will be in how I skillfully manage to do that.

Skillfully Trampoline Jumping in my youth
Skillfully trampoline jumping in my youth

In Buddhism they use the term skillful means (Upaya) to describe getting somewhere more efficiently. You do not acquire “skillful means” quickly, they come with practice, guidance, and time to, yes, REST and DIGEST. Not only food, but ideas, and concepts and feelings need time to settle and move through me and all of us really.


I used to be into the Aikido kind of metaphor, where you take what is coming towards you and move it along, flip the energy over. The problem is I was never an adept at Aikido or any martial art. I am a sponge, a big fat wet and sloppy sponge. Being an Empath means I take in all the emotions, feelings and things around me and I process them through my body. I do not move them around me, I receive them inside of me. Changing that pattern seems pretty impossible, so I have worn out lots of my systems, without meaning to and now I am navigating this body territory in new ways.

I also have to say that environmental factors play a part in all of this. I will write much more on this in the book I am gestating. For now though, I want to be very clear that I do not believe that any of us are exempt or safe from the degradation and wounding and polluting of our waterways, soils and planetary systems.

There is nowhere to hide and our bodies cannot escape, no matter how much organic food we eat or how many miles we run or how often we see the doctor or acupuncturist. We are all subject to the reality on this planet and no one gets away from the toxins and injustice here on this earth, even if it looks like they are “getting away with it or from it.” There is a cost for everyone, body, soul, heart and mind, one of your systems will be impacted or all of them.  We all have different capacities for handling toxins, some folks more than others, but all of us are exposed and injustice and harm wreak havoc on all of us because we are all ONE being.


See my poem Witch Hunt for a poetic take on this.


I always tell folks that my soul and spirit are permanently rejuvenated and rejuvenating. The thing is, my body is not. It is finite and has limits and challenges and I have to address those skillfully. I am not into judging myself or others for their body choices (at least not the ones that don’t harm others). You will face my wrath if you endanger others with your choices, but otherwise, we all have narratives and story lines we follow with our lives and bodies that are unique and personal.


Skillful means for me, means recognizing that I have to take my body and its needs a little more seriously now than I used to. I have to address “rest and digest” and actually do those two things more skillfully. I have no desire to do much of anything else right now, with the exception of my desire to pray more. I just cannot run and jump to the constant calls for action that are all around me. I am no longer available in the same way. Luckily, others are and can be and, I am not the only one who can be of service in situations. This is part of the story too, recognizing that I only need to do my part, not everyone’s part.


Across a few thousand years in time the voice of Rabbi Tarfon of the Talmud teaches and reminds me and all of us that:


“The day is short, there is much work, and the workers are lazy, but the reward is great and the Owner is pressing.” He added: “You are not duty-bound to finish the work, but on the other hand, you have no right to waste time from it; if you have learned much Torah you will receive great reward; your Owner is to be trusted that He will reward you for your efforts, but be mindful that the reward of the righteous is in the World to Come.” –

This passage is a translation: by Nissan Mindel.  There are lots of teachings in it. It is important to remember when looking at ancient texts that all Torah and teachings from others require perspective and explanation and contemplation. I have had the opportunity to study this teaching for years and years and it always yields fruit for me. The section, right now, that I am attending to is the idea of not being duty-bound to finish the work. I have not wasted my time or been lazy. I have to trust a little to others and learn more Torah. I need to rest from doing and digest teachings slowly in time so that I can be a skillful practitioner in a BODY for the next fifty years or so, B’ezrat Ha-Shem (with the Holy One’s Help).

May you benefit from whatever resting and digesting I manage to do that is of service to the greater good of Tikkun Olam (mending of the world). I wish you and all those in need of space and time, the space and time to also rest and digest!