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Physical Benefits of Meditation

Most people who are even slightly familiar with meditation are aware of the many mental benefits with the practice. From increased focus to decreased anxiety, the list of mental benefits is quite long. Did you know, that there are physical benefits to meditation as well? Science is proving that a mindfulness practice is quite beneficial to our physical health.

The Search for World Peace

Once there was a teacher who had two students. The teacher instructed his students to go home and draw a picture of peace. The next day both students came back with their pictures. The first student had drawn a pastoral mountain scene. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the stream was meandering undisturbed. The teacher thanked the student for his picture. The second student handed her picture to the teacher. This student had drawn a completely different scene than the first student. Her picture was dark and stormy. There were dark clouds and lightning bolts, and the wind was whipping through the trees. However, on one branch of a tree was a bird calmly sitting in her nest. The teacher smiled and told the second student that she had mastered the lesson of peace. 

Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the ability to exist in a state of calm despite the storm raging all around. This truth is one that I have come to embrace whole-heartedly. It has transformed the way I view world peace. I truly believe that all people envision a time when the world can completely be in peace and harmony. I believe the difference is in how we see the ability to get there. I think that we can never truly gain world peace until each individual is able to experience calm in the storm. Life is chaotic. It is difficult. We face many trials in life. If we can get to a point where it doesn’t matter what life throws at us, then we can experience peace. I believe that when one person achieves peace in her life then others will see it and work towards peace in their own lives. As each of us achieves peace, more and more people will as well. I believe when we reach a point in history when every individual has reached the capacity to live calmly in the storm of life, then we will have achieved the ability to have world peace. When we all have tasted the beauty that is peace, we will naturally live in harmony with each other. 

September 21 is the International Day of Peace. It is a UN designated holiday in dedication of the absence of war and violence. It is the perfect time to dedicate yourself to cultivating calm in a modern world. 

10 Things To Do After Loss

Each one of us faces loss in our lives at some time. The type of loss varies, and how we respond to it does, as well. Each of us are individuals and our life paths will throw loss our way. My response to a loss may not be the same as someone else experiencing that same loss. But, no matter what loss we face, there are ten things we can do that will help improve our situation. This list is not in any type of rank order- it’s just ten things that we all must do when we experience a major loss. 

Get clear about what you want. 

This is not the time to make a major change without being clear on why you want to do it. Change may be good, but it may also hinder our healing process. Before making any decisions about how to proceed after experiencing loss, take the time to sit down and evaluate what you want out of life and why you want it. You’re less likely to make a decision that will lead to regret. 

Spend time understanding your thoughts. 

It’s common to have negative thoughts after losing something that we held dear in our lives. What isn’t normal is having all of our thoughts overrun with the negative. Take time to think about the things you say to yourself and others. Are they negative? It’s likely that some of them (any perhaps all of them) are. Think about these thoughts and where they come from. Even positive thoughts can be inappropriate at times. Nothing is all light and good. Evaluate where your thoughts are coming from and why. Doing so will help you get your thoughts and self talk on the right track. Remember, we all need a balance of light and dark in our thoughts. 

Find someone to talk to. 

It’s important not to keep those thoughts (good or bad) all to ourselves. When we have experienced loss it’s easy to want to be alone and grieve. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, we need to also have someone to talk to in order to help process our thoughts and emotions. 

Set a goal and work towards it. 

It’s likely that your self esteem has taken a pretty rough hit with the loss. It doesn’t matter what the loss is. Suddenly losing something transforms our idea of ourselves. Set a small goal and work towards achieving it. When you do you will start gaining confidence. Then, make another goal and work towards achieving it, too. Each goal we reach, no matter how small, helps to build our confidence to where it was before the loss. 

Honor the Loss

It’s important to honor the memory of what we lost. This is quite common when we have lost a friend, relative, or pet through death. But all loss needs to be honored. Did you lose your job? Have you recently (or even not so recently divorced)? Have you lost the idea of realizing a dream you had for yourself? Take time to honor that loss. When we experience a major change/loss in our lives, we lose the idea of who we are. By taking the time to honor and remember what we lost we can begin the process of healing and becoming our new self. 

Engage with others. 

This one is similar to finding someone to talk to. But talking to someone isn’t enough by itself. You can talk to someone and still be locked up inside without getting outside. It’s important to engage with others. You may not want to do this immediately, and that’s ok. But it’s important to get out and be around other people sooner rather than later. 

Practice Self Care. 

What is it that you like to do for you? That thing that you find indulgent and luxurious just for you? It doesn’t matter what it is. Do it. Even little routine moments of self care are critical. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Go outside. Sit in the park. Spend some time alone in meditation. Depending on what loss you have experienced and whether or not others are dependent on you, it can be difficult to remember to take care of yourself. But you must do it. Self care is critical. Honestly, if this list was in any particular order, self care would be the number one thing to do after loss. 

Know that your feelings are valid. 

No matter what you are feeling after loss, it’s key to remember that your feelings are valid. If you are sad, that’s valid. If you aren’t, that’s valid too. Each one of us is different and we experience and process things in different ways. Whatever your loss is and whatever you’re feeling now, it’s ok and it’s normal. That doesn’t mean you should stay in those feelings forever. It just means that there is no wrong way to feel after loss. 

Ask for help.

You’re likely to have lots of well meaning friends and family tell you to let them know what they can do for you. You’re just as likely not to tell them anything. Don’t. It’s ok to need help after a loss. If you’ve lost your job you may need help with finances. If you’ve gotten divorced, you may need help with adjusting to living alone again. It doesn’t matter what your change is. It’s ok to need help and asking for that help is not something to be avoided. Remember how I said self care is the number one thing to do? Asking for help is a form of self care. 

Practice gratitude. 

Find something to be thankful for. There is always something. Spending time in gratitude is another form of self care. It helps you focus on what you still have, and that can be very reassuring when your identity and confidence may have just taken a huge hit. It doesn’t matter what it is, find something to be thankful for and express gratitude for it. 

Why We Need Credentials

Within the holistic community there are no governing oversight bodies that provide licensure for practitioners. This can be good and bad. The good thing with this is that there are very few barriers to entry. If you are interested in becoming a holistic practitioner, it is very easy to do so. The bad news is, without licensure, anyone can call themselves a practitioner with no real understanding of the holistic arts. This can end up in causing great harm to clients. 

 

I don’t think there should be a governing body that provides licensure. I also don’t think the government should be involved in requiring licensure for holistic practitioners. However, I think it is critical for practitioners to have education in their chosen field. 

 

As a practitioner, I have spent quite a lot of time in classes and courses that have provided certification. As there is no governing body, these certifications have no real accreditation behind them. Despite that, there is a great value in having them. Credentials show that I am dedicated to my practice and that I put my clients first. I want you to have confidence in me. By investing time and money in achieving certifications that are not required, I am showing you that I have taken the time to study and learn what I am doing. 

 

No matter whom you choose for your holistic practitioner, please make sure that they have some sort of certification. Someone who does not have any type of holistic education will not have your wellness in mind. 

 

My Spiritual Journey

I was born into a Christian family. I was raised as what I term “Bapticostal”. My parents divorced when I was four and I spent one weekend with my father in the Church of God, and the other weekend with my mom’s family in the Baptist church. If you know anything at all about different Christian denominations, you will know what an oxymoron it is to but baptist and pentecostal together. If you are not familiar, rest assured when I say that the two are about as diametrically opposed as you can be between two protetstant Christian denominations. 

 

I grew up with what is known as the protestant work ethic. Work, labor of any kind, was praised, and it was drilled in that if I wanted anything out of life that I would have to work for it. I grew up not expecting handouts and believing that accepting charity was a show of laziness 

 

Above all else, I was raised to believe that Christianity meant believing in the tenets of the church without question. If I had questions I learned not to ask them. It was more important to have faith and believe than it was to understand. Knowing- understanding- was not necessary. All that was necessary was to believe what was taught. 

 

If you know me, then you know that I have always struggled with being a people pleaser. I think part of that stems from my parents’ divorce. It doesn’t really matter what caused it. I have always struggled to live an authentic life because the authentic me doesn’t always lead to approval. I have hid myself and tried to live based on what makes other people happy for so long, and that included blind allegiance to my religion of birth. I had questions, but I never asked them. Asking questions meant that I was “bad” or “didn’t have faith” or “didn’t believe”. For a long time I was fine with this. I pushed aside my doubts and questions. I refused to think for myself and insisted that I believed what I was taught. 

 

In May 2011 my life changed. I came home from work and found that my husband had passed away. I was 31. He was 24. That day changed my life forever. After the initial phases of grief I started to look at my life. I began to have little doubts about my faith. I began to ask myself questions. It wasn’t long after that until I decided that I really wanted to ask these questions. The faith I grew up with was not welcoming of these questions. So I began to look elsewhere. 

 

I had always felt a special connection to Judaism and so that is where I turned to. I began reading everything I could about Judaism and gravitating more and more toward it as a culture and religion. It wasn’t a linear path, but in 2016 I completed my conversion to Judaism when I sat before the beit dein and entered the mikveh. 

 

Part of the process was choosing my Jewish name. A lot of convert women choose names like Devorah or Ruth, but they did not speak to me. I chose my name by looking to my life. One thing that resonated with me was my focus on life. I finally felt that I was living an authentic version of my life. Also, looking at my life after the death of my husband, I was, quite literally, still living. So I chose the name Chaya. But I was torn between life and the moon. I have always loved the moon. It’s feminine energy speaks to me, and the moon has special significance for Jewish women. So I chose to take a second name, Levana. My Jewish name- Chaya Levana- quite literally means Living Moon. 

 

It’s now three years after my conversion. Judaism has been a fitting addition and change to my life. It speaks to me and is where I find the most meaning in my life. I haven’t been static in my spiritual journey, however. Judaism encourages questions, and I still have plenty of those. I love that my faith encourages me to ask questions. While Judaism is my religion, I don’t always practice it in stereotypical Jewish ways. I blend many different religions into my personal practice. I have added many aspects of Buddhism into my walk as well as Celtic spirituality to honor my Scottish heritage. I also infuse a lot of earth based, hoodoo and conjure into my walk as well. I am becoming more and more vocal in my political beliefs, and those are fully fused with my spiritual beliefs as well. Feminism has been a huge recent influence on my spirituality.  

 

Now that I’ve written all of this out I’m pretty amazed. I mean, it’s my life and I know it, but seeing it written out I just feel it all at once. It’s definitely not been a linear path. I haven’t even reached the end of it. That’s what amazes me the most. I have walked an amazing path, and I’m only part way along. I still have more to come. I fully expect that the rest of my spiritual path will be just as amazing as the first part.  

 

Is America Ready for A Female President?

I know it’s kind of early to be making predictions about the 2020 presidential election, but I thought I would go ahead and share my thoughts on the topic of a woman president. 

 

First off, I am sorely vexed in 2019 to have to ask if we are ready for a female president. It just rubs me the wrong way that we are still questioning whether or not a person’s gender has anything to do with their ability to get a job done. Women have come so far outside of their previously designated separate sphere of the home, yet, we still have not had a woman hold the highest office in the land. I find it ironic that women have been deemed unfit for the presidency due to lack of military experience (prior to women being in the military), yet, we now have our fourteenth president who entered office with no military experience. 

 

I personally do not think a person’s gender should have any bearing on their ability to serve as President of the United States. It does not matter to me. What does matter is the person’s ability to lead this nation. With that being said, I would love to see a female President. But, I would not vote for a woman simply for the sake of having her in office. 

 

In the end, I don’t think America is ready for a female President. Sadly, if we are still discussing the “readiness” or if a “woman can handle it” we aren’t there yet. America has a lot of growing up left to do. I do see a day when we will have a female President. I just don’t think it will be 2020.    

 

Remembering Destruction

One thing I have learned in life is that is is crucial that we take time to remember and honor the destruction in our lives. Remembering the traumas in our past allows us to grieve in a healthy manner and ensures that we never forget the things that have made us what we are. We can never get away from our shadow, and we shouldn’t want to. We need not dwell on the darkness. It is unhealthy to do so. However, it is equally unhealthy to pretend that we have no shadow. Integration is key. Integration is balance. There is dark to every aspect of life. 

 

In Judaism, there is a day for remembering destruction. Tish B’Av, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, is a day of destruction in Jewish history. Many terrible acts destruction have happened on this day, including the destruction of both temples. The 9th of Av is a day of mourning and fasting to mark and remember the terrible things in our past. If you want to read about the history of destruction on this day, you can do so here.

 

Because the Jewish calendar is lunar, the date varies on the Gregorian calendar each year. In 2019, the day fell on Saturday August 10. However, because the day fell on the Sabbath, it is observed on Sunday August 11. The Sabbath is a day of supreme joy and beauty, and we do not fast on the Sabbath. Traditionally, the day is observed through fasting, prayer, reading Lamentations, and general sadness. 

 

I, personally, do not fast on Tish B’Av. I do tend to spend the day in solemness and reading of Lamentations. I take time to remember the destruction that has happened on this day and I try to find parallels in my own life and not just dwell on the world as a whole. I find it quite interesting, but not coincidental, that the day always falls around the time of Lughnassadh. It is the beginning of the shadow season. It’s still summer, but we are reaching the time of harvest and drawing closer to the time of death. What better time to take a day to observe and remember our past traumas?  

 

Lammas Traditions

This past week on August 1, we celebrated Lammas or Lughnasadh (luna-sa), the first of several harvest festivals. Although I am Jewish, I come from Scottish heritage, so I do observe Gaelic/Celtic holidays such as this one. There are many ways to celebrate Lughnasadh, as well as many myths and legends that surround it. Like everything else, I pick and choose what I do in my celebrations surrounding the wheel of the year. 

 

As Lughnasadh is a harvest festival, my celebration mainly surrounds the foods that I eat. My Lammas meal is pretty simple. I make sure to eat from the Native American Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash) as well as a loaf of bread- namely Challah. This Jewish braided bread traditionally was just bread and the word challah referred to the pinch of dough that was offered to the Queen of Heaven in the fire. You would literally pinch off a piece of dough and burn it in the fire as an offering to Asherah. However, the term challah has come to mean the loaf itself. I generally don’t make my own challah (although on occasion I do), so at Lughnasadh I make sure to take a pinch of the already baked bread and save it to burn on my altar for the Queen of Heaven. Then, I eat the remainder of the Challah with the Three Sisters.

My Lammas meal is the majority of my observance of this holiday. I also like to have a corn dolly on my altar from now until Mabon. That’s about it, though. I’m rather simple in my observances and that works for me. What are your favorite ways to observe Lughnasadh? 

~Chaya Levana

 

39 Things I’ve Never Told You

I’ve been blogging for awhile now, and most of my dear readers are not personal connections (yet!). You may or may not have explored more of this website and read my brief bio on here. So while staring at my blank screen trying to come up with something to write (yes it happens, a lot!), I decided it’s high time to give you a behind the scenes peek into my life. Why 39 things? Because I’m 39 years old. So, without further ado, here are the things I’ve not told you about myself. 

  1. I was raised in a single parent home- by my dad. My parents divorced when I was four years old. My father ended up with custody of me and my sisters. As a result, I grew up with a distinctly masculine outlook on life. 
  2. I wasn’t born Jewish. I was actually raised what I term Bapticostal. For those of you who don’t know, that’s a mix of Baptist and Pentacostal. I went to the Baptist church every other Sunday with my mom’s family and the other Sundays I attended the Church of God with my dad. I converted to Judaism as an adult with the formal conversion process ending when I was 36. 
  3. I tried to walk away from being an empath. I didn’t know I was an empath- or even what that term was- at the time, but as a child I was highly sensitive. As a teenager I pushed the sensitivity away through hardening myself. It didn’t really work and I was miserable for a long time. When I was introduced to what an empath is I turned back to my natural self. 
  4. I’ve been married three times. Yes, you read that right. I’m 39 years old and I’m on my third marriage. The first ended in divorce, and I was widowed with the second. 
  5. I have no preferred partner type. Between my husbands and other significant relationships, it’s easy to tell that I have a wide variety of things I am attracted to. I definitely don’t have a “type” that I’m drawn to. Age, looks, personality- they’ve all been extremely different from one another. 
  6. My friends range in age from 20s to 60s. I love people with experiences and don’t congregate with just those around my own age. I do, however, have friends close to my own age as well. 
  7. I love clothes, but I’m not that into shoes. I love having new clothes and wearing lots of funky things, but when it comes to shoes, I could be in flip flops all the time and be fine. I actually prefer no shoes at all and I even walk around my office barefoot when we aren’t open to the public. 
  8. I have a 9-5 job in addition to working as a healer and transformation life coach. I’m actually a librarian by trade. As in I have a MS in Library and Information Science. I’m the Director of a small public library in central Pennsylvania. 
  9. If I could make a living from higher education I would. I don’t mean working for a university. I mean as in making a living from being a student. I absolutely love learning. There are so many things I want to study. Alas, I can’t be a professional student. 
  10. I have a very dry sense of humor. 
  11. I’m extremely literal. I often don’t get it when people are joking around. I’m a say what you mean and mean what you say kind of girl. 
  12. I can be more than a little juvenile. I enjoy sophomoric humor. My mind lives in the gutter. 
  13. I broke my arm roller skating when I was four. I was convinced that I didn’t need my parents to hold my hand and that I could skate like my big sister. Whichever parent I was with actually let me try (probably to get me to stop whining) and I went down on my left arm breaking it. 
  14. Although I didn’t have the traditional experience, I’m a sorority girl. Yes, your girl is an Alpha Phi. 
  15. At one time I had dreams of being an actress. I don’t know how that would have worked out considering I have extreme anxiety from being in front of people. 
  16. My husband and I met on Facebook. 
  17. I quit my job and moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania to get married in 2017. 
  18. Despite being happy in Pennsylvania I am extremely homesick and miss North Carolina with a passion. 
  19. My favorite movie ever is Gone With the Wind. By the time I was 10 I could recite all the lines while watching it. 
  20. I secretly wanted to grow up and be Scarlett O’Hara. 
  21. I’m a fat activist. I believe all people deserve basic human rights and fat people shouldn’t be discriminated against. Also, you can’t tell a fat person’s health just by looking at them. 
  22. I am not liberal or conservative. I’m a Libertarian by political affiliation. I adhere to a live and let live philosophy. 
  23. I am not ashamed to believe in the basic and inherent goodness in people. 
  24. I believe our society can not be changed through legislation but only through education and changed minds/hearts. 
  25. My favorite fiction is dystopian literature. 
  26. I love to sing but I’m really really bad at it. My husband loves to sing and is quite talented. He didn’t believe me when I said I can’t sing. One day I made him turn his back to me while I sang him a song (I was too nervous to have him look at me). When I was finished he turned around and said, “Well, that took a lot of courage.”
  27. While I’m Jewish by religion and identify as such, I don’t adhere to a strictly Jewish spirituality. Ok, you probably could figure that one out, but I do blend a lot of various practices from different traditions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American practices, and HooDoo. 
  28. I was Senior Class President of my high school. Not that I was popular enough to be elected to anything like that. In fact, I won solely because no one ran against me. When it was announced that I won, some students tried to have me removed by circulating a petition to have me replaced. 
  29. I’m an anomaly in my immediate family. My parents had three children as did both of my sisters. I’m the only childless one in the bunch.   
  30. I can tap my second toe, but only on my right foot. When I have my feet resting on the floor with all my toes still I can make my second toe tap the floor. I can’t do this on my left foot, though. 
  31. I can curl my tongue. 
  32. Despite trying to conform to my family’s ultra conservative worldview, I have always been a feminist. In third grade when all my friends were absent, I spent my play period on the playground alone giving a lecture to an imaginary audience about the urgency of America electing a female President. 
  33. I read everything in museums. Every single word on every single sign in every single exhibit. Take me to a museum and we are guaranteed to be there for hours. 
  34. When I was five years old I wanted to marry Spider Man. 
  35. Sadly I still struggle with worrying about what other people think about me. It’s not as bad as when I was younger, but I do still struggle with this. 
  36. My absolute favorite thing in the entire world to eat is a tomato sandwich. White bread. Duke’s mayonnaise, thick slices of juicy red tomatoes, salt, pepper. It doesn’t get better than that. Yes, I’m Southern. 
  37. I’m proud of my roots. Every single experience I’ve had has made me the medicine woman I am today. 
  38. I have two best friends: my Rebel BFF and my Yankee BFF. Both women mean the world to me. 
  39. My life at 39 is nothing like I thought it would be, but I love it. I can’t say I wouldn’t change anything, because let’s be honest, I totally would. However, I love who I am and where I am. I am content. 

There you have it. Thirty nine random facts about me and my life. I hope you learned something. Feel free to leave a comment on what surprised you the most. 

The Gift of Mercury Retrograde

Mercury is in retrograde from July 7 – July 31, 2019. What does this mean? In simple terms, it means that Mercury is travelling backwards from it’s normal path. In reality, this isn’t possible. So why do we say Mercury is in retrograde? Because Mercury is closer to the sun than Earth it has a shorter orbit time (88 days compared to Earth’s 365). In other words, Mercury wizzes by Earth several times in our year, But, like the story of the tortoise and the hare, at some point, Earth, in her steady circle, will catch up to and then pass Mercury. When Earth passes Mercury it appears that Mercury is moving backwards. This is Mercury retrograde and it happens three times each year. 

In astrology, Mercury rules communication, coordination, travel, commerce, and finances. So, when Mercury is in retrograde we tend to experience communication snafus and things just tend to not go well in these areas. Oftentimes, we tend to expect awful things to start happening as soon as Mercury goes retrograde or when we start experiencing these things we wonder if Mercury has gone retrograde. 

Instead, we should look at this period as a gift. In modern society we tend to go full steam ahead with plans and projects. That’s not a bad thing, per se, but sometimes we forget to sit back and take stock of what we have going on and what we need to accomplish. Mercury retrograde is the perfect time for this. We can’t really stop everything for several weeks three times per year, but we can take these weeks to slow down and think about what we are doing. When we do so we are being mindful in all that we do. Instead of expecting bad things to happen and accepting that you will have a bad attitude about it, plan to use this time to look inward and take stock of what’s going on with you and how you interact with the universe. Make plans, but don’t make final decisions until Mercury is direct again. If you plan to travel, double, and even triple check, your travel plans prior to heading out. Be sure to have a back up plan. When things go wrong (because let’s face it, it happens during Mercury retrograde) take a deep breath and ask what you need to learn from the experience. 

Like everything else in life, Mercury retrograde is what you make of it. If you expect all bad things and a bad attitude, that’s exactly what you will get. Instead, expect to learn some lessons about yourself and you most certainly will.  

~Chaya Levana