All posts by sigal

Seeding a Soul Inspired Life

The time has come to seed the garden of your life with new soul inspired seeds.

Tu Bishvat (15th day in the month of Shevat) is almost here.  Under a full moon  this week we will celebrate Tu Bishvat – we celebrate trees and nature.  Go outside and gaze at the full moon, pregnant with new possibilities,  and contemplate seeding soul inspired seeds in your life. What hopes and dreams are hidden in your soul? What do you sense and imagine could bloom in your life when Spring arrives? What needs to be cultivated now and what decisions and work do you need to do now?

Tu Bishvat is a celebration of trees and nature. The trees are very internal this time of year. Perhaps they too are dreaming and growing with strength. Readying themselves to burst with beauty in Spring.

Why do we take time to do inner work? Why should we sit quietly and meditate and simply make time to be? Because, like trees, even before the thawing and the blooming, our insides become alive. Now is the time for deep inner growing; dreaming and imagining.

THE PRACTICE:

We begin by imagining the fruits we want to bring to fruition. What will you grow? Sit and become quiet to reflect on what you love; discern the desires of your heart. What is your heart’s desire?

Make time to meditate, reflect, journal, speak, draw , paint, be in nature and be still for a few minutes a day.

When you have a sense of what are your soul inspired seeds, your heart’s seeds, write them down. You may discover there are seeds you didn’t know were hidden within you. You may want to make a list and read it a few times. Keep the list going and choose to reflect more in depth on 2-3 of the items. Attend to them. Nourish and water these seeds. Try to make time for dreaming and for listening attentively.

Identify the necessary conditions to help your heart seeds grow and come to life.  What are the attitudes and actions you will take, or avoid, to support the growth?

Don’t rush. It is still winter. On Tu Bishvat the trees only begin to wake up and the sap begins to flow. Be patient and generous like a tall and strong tree. You have plenty of time to seed and germinate until Spring (Passover.) Don’t rush. Take all the time you need, but remain focused.

May your heart’s seeds germinate, take root and grow well. May they grow into a beautiful Spring garden and reward you with the delicious fruits. May it fill your life with beauty and peace. Enjoy!

Many blessings, Rabbi Sigal

Mendful and Authentic in 2024

Will 2024 be the year you act more authentically on your values?

2023 has been a difficult year with the war in Israel. Personally, 2023 was a year of many changes and transitions for me. Post pandemic we are definitely free to roam about more freely but, we are forever changed by the years of the pandemic in many ways.

Many of us experienced significant changes and disruptions to your life in the past years; work, relationships, home, family, travel, and routines. While some changes are stressful and disorienting, other may be welcomed and comforting. We all, with more or lesser success, have tried to navigate with grace and balance. 

In the many interactions I had during the past years I learned two things were important. Staying connected with others and staying connected to our inner selves. Too many of us the daily spiritual and body-mind practices were more important than ever. It continued strengthening our resolve, sense of hope, well- being, and resilience. In the virtual Mendful mentoring sessions and gatherings it was apparent how connecting with one another helped bring out our authentic selves and smiles more fully. The engaging group and one on one conversations encouraged us to be more daring and open to try new things.  

I learned from Professor Wendy Wood that people are reluctant to make new decisions during hard times. People think that making new decisions when there is a disruption to life, is not a good idea. But, in fact, she says, that disruptions to life are opportunities to act more authentically on our values. People try new things when life is disrupted because the old ways are no longer possible. They experiment with ideas that may have been dormant for a while, and the disruption is an opportunity to act on them.

How can you act more authentically on your values in 2024?

I invite you to make time to reflect back on the year 2023. What were some of your most memorable experiences and insights? What do you wish you acted on to bring you closer to a fuller expression of you? Now, what do you want to cultivate and grow in the year 2024? How will you use the time left in lockdown this winter, whether home alone or with family, to bring out more of you? Perhaps to do something new, or something you always wanted to learn or attend to but never did.

Set your heartfelt intentions and follow them with meaningful action. Invite others into the conversation, discuss and share your intentions with family and friends to support each other and share in your success, as you engage in your chosen activities to live out your intentions.

It’s hard to make changes at any time. It requires courage, resolve and commitment to act. When we attend and nurture our body and minds with mendful conversations and spiritual practices, we grow our capacity and encourage or hearts to live our values more fully, and we act more authentically. The practices give us strength and focus to creatively find paths to overcome challenges. We experience more contentment, peace and joy when we act authentically.I hope this year we feel resolved and better equipped to handle the ups and down of life. May we support each other and have the courage to really live our authentic values more fully.

I am here to help if you would like to connect about Mendful mentoring sessions.

Happy 2024!

Gratitude to Remedy Entitled Attitude

Tov l’hodot. It is good to give thanks. (Psalm 92)

Thanksgiving is here. Is it about giving thanks? Is it about giving? It may be hard to tell what is hidden behind the huge turkey and the elaborate plans for the big shopping days.

It is too bad we are distracted from focusing on thanking, because making time to thank is an important activity. It turns out that giving thanks and appreciating are really good for us. They are good for our overall well-being. Even during hard times and in difficult situations, gratitude is a healing balm. In Jewish tradition we are guided to train ourselves to wake up with “I am grateful” on our mind, on our lips and in our prayer of Modeh/Modah Ani each morning.

Practicing gratitude in the morning and often during the day, giving of oneself, and acting in the world to benefit others help remedy suffering and nourish the soul. The nice thing about gratitude is that it is a choice. We can choose the attitude of gratitude, we can choose to infuse our lives with awe and humility by thanking and appreciating often. Studies show that thanking and helping others support our happiness and well-being.

The opposite of the attitude of gratitude is entitled attitude. An entitled attitude is a feeling the world owes us something, that we deserve and should have all our expectations and desired fulfilled. If they are not, we feel miserable, angry and disappointed. Our society has conditioned many of us to be entitled consumers. With sayings like ‘the customer is always right’ we overlook care for others, and qualities like humility, patience and gratitude are ignored.

In a society where personal entitlement is the norm, giving thanks is a necessary remedy.

With giving thanks we gain perspective and we focus more on what we have, while we focus less on what we don’t have, and even less on what we should have.

On Thanksgiving day when you gather around the table, you may want to invite people to share the good things in their lives. You may also want to include meaningful words of prayers, readings and blessings to fill this day with thanks.

Here is how to sprinkle Jewish blessings on your Thanksgiving feastInvite your family and friends to focus on the theme of the day: Thanking! Begin with a moment of centering and quiet as you sit around the table and offer a kiddush (wine blessing.) Then, lift the bread together and bless the meal with Hamotzi (bread blessing.)  Savor the food and enjoy the meal while listening to each others’ sharing their gratitude. You may want to conclude with a blessing after the meal to express thanks for the abundance. You can chant the grace after meal (birkat hamazon) and sing other songs of thanksgiving. Listen to Tov L’hodot in link below.

simple practice: Give yourself a moment now to name a few things you are thankful for. Include giving thanks in your daily routine. It’s best if it’s done at the same time daily. Notice how you feel when you remember the things that you are grateful for and the people that you appreciate.

Give yourself & others “me” time and “us” time to mend.

Mendful time is what many of us need most, especially in this hectic holidays season.

Give Gift Certificate for Personal Mendful Mentoring with Rabbi Sigal (contact us)

December retreats at Kripalu!

L’Shanah Tova

I would like to express my heartfelt wishes at this time of turning our gaze onto a New Jewish Year. 
May it be a sweet and healthy New Year. May the year 5784 be a mendful path that brings us more ease, contentment and delight. May we share in more peace and may tranquility and friendship reside in our communities. May we experience less conflict and more understanding. May our homes be filled with the love and kindness we enjoy and desire, every day and throughout the year.
L’shannah tovah u’metukah. 
Love and blessings, Rabbi Sigal

We hope you join us for December retreats at the beautiful Kripalu Center in Massachusetts 

How to let go and be turned

horn_and_pomagranite

Hashivaynu e’lecha ve’nashuvah  Come let us turn, return, and be turned to the one.

After Teshuvah, the willful work of turning and returning, we let go of preconceived notions of what we are and how life should be. We breathe, relax and allow life to unfold for us. The more we allow ourselves to be turned, the more we are home.

Our attempts at prayer for help, as it is with any action, is motivated by our belief, laden with guilt, that we need to do something and that belief causes us to never let go or relax. We are always doing, trying, controlling and seeking to get better, farther, etc. Most often we forget to stop after we ask to feel the effect of our “doing” and to let help, joy and life in. We are habituated to do and we rarely surrender long enough to be turned and feel at home in ourselves and where we are in our lives.

The Jewish New Year is here to remind us to wake up and stop the doing and the trying so we could be turned. At the beginning of a new year, willing to be transformed and with hope we stand at a new beginning pregnant with possibilities. We pray and ask to be turned and retuned to the home of our souls. (You are welcome to include more specific prayers that arise in your heart for happiness, health, peace, prosperity etc.) I hope you can stop doing and be. Listen deeply and pray for an opening in the heart, so you could be turned. Turned and returned to more fully appreciate this magnificent gift – your life.

With humility and with hope in our hearts we allow ourselves to fall into the embrace of the Mystery and remain curious and open to enjoy the ride which is somehow mysteriously guided by our desire to love this life more fully before it is too late.

Shuvah, it’s time to come home.

Besefer haim tekateyvu vetechatymu. May we all be inscribed in the book of good life.

I wish you and yours a sweet and healthy new year and wonderful holiday celebrations.

L’shana Tova u’metukah

ELUL – four weeks to Rosh Ha’Shanah

How I love the beautiful nights at the end of Summer. The sliver of the moon above is beckoning us to gather a few more sun rays and a couple more days at the beach, to store within for the approaching cold of winter. On August 17, the new moon of the month of Elul will hang in the night’s sky.  It will be the last new moon before Rosh Hashana.

All these signs in nature are  telling us: we are four weeks away from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The invitation of the Jewish New Year is to truly have a fresh start; to review, organize and prioritize our lives and how we spend our time. To make amends, forgive, release, mend and at the end of this have a plan of intentions and goals to return to the home of our soul. A return to our kind and loving nature. This yearly internal reflection is necessary and important to help clear a new path of hope to an inspired and meaningful life in the future. To truly clear a new path we must pass through the gates of  forgiveness.

Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past. It is a hard ask, but giving up the hope that the past could be different removes the heavy shackles we carry. The past cannot change. It is in the past. We need to leave the past to the past in order to truly move forward. This is the season to sincerely forgive ourselves, the past and others. Now is the time to release and move forward.

Elul the month preceding the New Year, invites us to spent time at the wellspring of our hearts remembering what we love, what is important to us and what brings us alive. Even when it’s hard to manage through the work of forgiveness, the sweet memory and feeling whole in ourselves and in the world, encourages us to do the work. When we remember there can be peace in our soul and long to return to that feeling, we sometimes experience a strong pull of the desire to be at peace, and are motivated to do the work. We hold before us the hope  to live our highest aspirations, to live in peace and honor the desires of our hearts more fully each day.

Here are some questions and inspirations to Contemplate during Elul:

Help yourself decide what to release and what to keep

Identify: What are the obstacles to living the life you want? What is standing between you and living guided by your values and aspirations? How can you stop engaging in unhelpful habits? How can you help yourself release them? What do you need to do to release them?

Madison Taylor writes: “One of the hardest things in life is feeling stuck in a situation that we don’t like and want to change. We may have exhausted ourselves trying to figure out how to make change, and we may even have given up. If we tend to regard ourselves as having failed, this will block our ability to allow ourselves to succeed. We have the power to change the story we tell ourselves by acknowledging that in the past, we did our best, and we exhibited many positive qualities, and had many fine moments on our path to the present moment.”

Identify: What are the things you need and want to keep? How can you better nurture them to make them grow more in your life?

Each new year we are given the opportunity to review our lives and renew our resolve to change for the better. Each new year we are called to open to new possibilities.  Open to the hope that we can make the changes we need to make.

When we honestly and kindly review the past year, it is possible to open to new ways, new healthier habits and routines. Consciously welcoming an inner shift to allow us to get out of the cycle we’ve been which has kept us stuck.

Sit, contemplate, write…

After the reviewing it’s time to open the heart with forgiveness. To loosen the knots of shame, blame, regret, self-hatred, not good enough and other sticky patterns of thinking and feeling. All those feelings and thoughts about ourselves and others keep us separated from each other and the home of our soul; our joy, our peace, and our ease and contentment.

We release the past and open to new possibilities in the new year.

Shannah Tova

Join us for  Retreats at Kripalu Center

December 21-26 and 26-29  2023  

Celebrate the Holidays in a Welcoming Community 

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Find New Passover Freedom

Spring welcomes us with sunshine and new colors. Life is infused with hope again. Passover is the holiday of Spring and freedom. It is also the holiday of new beginnings, asking questions and telling stories. It is time to come together and share with others. We eat unleavened bread (Matzah) as a reminder to let go of old “sticky” habits. Here are some Passover ideas to bring to Seder .Enjoy!

1. Ask New Questions
Although it is fun to sing the traditional four questions and do traditional things, many people become bored and tune out. To generate engaging discussions around the table try to ask new questions. What questions would you ask? What questions other have? For example: Name four highlights related to new beginnings in the last year? What are some of the experiences or events that are related to freedom and what are those related to oppression in the last year?

2. Put the Say in Say-der (Seder)
Hagadah, the book we read at the Seder, literally means to tell. This year try more telling and less reading. For example, use the the four cups of freedom to talk about the stages and kinds of freedom. The Hebrew name of the holiday Pesach, as pointed out to to us by a Hassidic Rabbi, can also be understood as related to telling. If we divide the word in to 2 words: Peh-sach, it means mouth-speaking/telling.
Give yourself the permission to leave the usual script and improvise on the many themes of the holiday.  Dare to be dramatic! For example, tell stories about your own life and talk about world events in the last year that relate to the themes of freedom and bondage. 

3. Becoming Less Sticky or Stuck
If Passover is the holiday of freedom and liberation, why is the food we eat is binding? With the awareness of sustainable and healthier lifestyle, our diet is also an expression of our choice to be more free. Some people are adapting a gluten free diet, which in my sensibility relates to the Passover theme of freedom and becoming less sticky.
We know now that some foods are “sticky” (hence called glue-ten) and cause inflammation. Over the years I have adopted a Passover diet rich in vegetables, fruits and protein and less grain. I especially try to consume less Matzah.

4. All are welcome – Kol Dich’fin
Kol dich’fin, in Aramaic means all are welcome. When we make plans for the seder each year we ask, who else can we invite? On this holiday of freedom we ask how can we be the force of good and share in our liberation? We count our blessings and extend our thanks by sharing an evening with people who we don’t know well, or people who are alone, had a hard year and can use the invitation to feel more free for one night.
We care and share with others with the tradition of kol dich’fin, all are welcome. We let people know there is always room at our table. Small gestures; opening our doors, sharing a meal with others, are actions to help heal and mend our world.

Playing Hide and Seek

How long have you been hiding your dreams and aliveness?

What desires are you denying yourself?

What are you afraid of?
Spring is a time to stop hiding and take a leap of faith. Look at nature around you and see how trees bloom and bulbs sprout without any effort or angsts. To spring forward like flowers do, we need to trust and not let worries and fears stop us. Think for a moment: What have I really wanted to do, but held back because of one reason or another, which stopped me from living fully and from fulfilling my dreams?
Revealing and concealing play important roles in our lives, in our stories and traditions. Life is a mystery and that is what makes it interesting. God and spirit are also unknown and they are too interesting because of that. Mysterious elements in all things keep us curious, engaged and yep, also guessing and amazed.
This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim (Tuseday March 7) and read the story about Queen Esther (her name means hidden.) We dress up in costumes, which are revealing and hiding somethings about ourselves at the same time. This year, it also happened Easter is this weekend; marking the resurrection of Jesus and children will be looking for hidden colorful eggs with hidden sweets.
In both holidays we tell stories about hiddenness and salvation. The experiences of being lost, hidden and in despair are met with being found and saved. We can all relate to this motif. We all want to be found, seen, and live authentically and freely, but fears may stop us. In our spiritual seeking, and seeking friends, connections and meaning we long to be found. We long  to stop feeling separated and we want to stop hiding. The stories we celebrate this week can be helpful to us if we explore them as myths about human needs and conditions. The spirit is hidden and the storeis focus on the human side, not on God.
Life, turns out, is a mystery. The hidden and the revealed are playfully woven together. On Purim we can let what we usually hold back be more in the forefront. Playfully and temporarily we enjoy showing some of what is hidden. What can you playfully reveal about you, your life, your ideas and dreams? What will make you laugh if you trusted and revealed some of the mystery you are?  

Welcome to Purim: Happiness is Served

Purim is a holiday dedicated to happiness and fun.
On Purim we are “commanded” to be happy and have fun.

But what if you don’t feel like engaging in the fun?

That is why it is a “commandment!” Even when, or especially when, you don’t feel happy or you are not in the mood to celebrate, Purim is here to engage you in the practice of having fun.

Purim is an opportunity to practice shifting your mood. I think seeing the conditions to shift one’s mood and mindset is a very valuable skill to have! The commandment to rejoice and have fun during Purim invites us into the realm of  playfulness. It facilitates for the experience of being silly, rowdy, playful and carefree which encourages freedom to be playful.

I have shared about setting the right conditions instead of setting goals, for living the life we desire. Happiness and having fun work in similar ways. On Purim, we set the conditions for playfulness and are  reminded of how joy feels.
We know from studies that smiling and laughing, even for no reason at all, changes how we feel. When we smile and laugh we set the physical, chemical, and neural conditions to feeling happier. 
Purim is an interesting combination of fun and masquerading. It works because freeing ourselves to be playful, in how we dress and behave on Purim, sets the conditions to silliness and giddiness, and that in turns contributes to more happiness and encourages more freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression goes together with feeling authentic and opens us to more joy and fun.

I hope you don’t miss out on the opportunity of Purim, and also in your life everyday, to be silly, rejoice, play, lough, smile and express your aliveness with joy.

Kabbalah Retreat for Inner Peace MAY 19-21 at Kripalu Retreat Center

Polyvagal Theory: A Mendful Pointer to Wellbeing

Polyvagal theory and other neuroscience teach about important systems that regulate our responses. These new areas of study are important for us to understand because they point us to wellbeing. The theories explain patterns in our body-mind which heavily influence our lives; physiologically, psychologically, relationally and cognitively. 

I have seen the positive effect of sharing this information with my students. A beautiful shift can happen when we learn how the body responds to fear and stress. It helps because it can stop us from taking things personally or believing we are broken beyond repair. It  points us onto a kinder mendful path toward our hope and strength. This knowledge along with guided MENDtations and self inquiry exercises can help when we are dealing with negative arousal responses. Many of my student learn to relax more, rebuild resiliency and access more joy in a relatively short time.

What I teach in my retreats and personalized mentoring sessions  is now supported by the growing body of research and knowledge from neuroscience. We combine guided practices  and conversations to help create the conditions for the desired shifts back to health, contentment and ease. Centuries before seeds of neuroscience theories were even thought of, spiritual and religious practices such as meditation, chanting, visualization, prayer, tribal and physical rituals and cognitive methods, were used to calm, destress and point us in the direction of joy and contentment.  It is powerfully transformative when we delve into ancient practices and teachings now with the added knowledge of the new findings.

We discover how that they go together well because they address the same human needs; the freedom and easing of fear, stress, anxiety, discontent, agitation and unhappiness. I feel awe when I see these connections because they reflect to me humanity’s desire and ability to engage in a continues and expansive exploratory creative unfolding toward betterment of our conditions.

The retreats I teach are immersive and supportive experiences where we relax and let our full selves be. We learn how the conditioned unnecessary reactivity in the body-mind act as door ways to healing and positive change. It’s amazing what can be done in three days! Participants are able to delve deep into their inner spaces and experience beautiful connection to soul. It’s profound and moving to witness. 

Participants report that the group experience and the exercises are soul nourishing, insightful and mendful on many levels.

Hollie wrote: “Following Rabbi Sigal’s Mendful program at Kripalu I have experienced a shift, a softening, a turn towards wonder. So much of this heart opening was a result of ‘marinating’ in the loving community Sigal held for us.”

I love guiding and supporting people in retreats and with personalized Mendful Life Mentoring. You don’t have to do it alone. I am here to help. Together we journey the mendful path.

Retreats at Kripalu