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. 

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.    

 

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. 

Book Recommendations

I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, and I really want to try some fiction for a bit. I love all kinds of fiction, but I’m really in the mood for some Jewitchy fiction. It’s hard to find because nothing is really labeled that way. So, I have compiled a list of ten books I recommend if you are looking for some Jewitchy fiction. I’ve read half of this list. The other half have either been recommended to me or I have stumbled across them in looking through Jewish fiction lists. If you’ve read any of these let me know what you think.

  1. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant- This is the story of Dinah- a woman mentioned in passing as the daughter of Jacob. In the Bible she is a footnote in the story of her violent rape. Here we see her story, and that of her four mothers.
  2. The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish– Historian Helen Watt and student Aaron Levy are on a quest to discover the identity of the mysterious “Aleph”- author of a cache of 17th century Jewish documents discovered in a London home.
  3. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker– A golem. A jinni. Both loose in New York City. Need I say more?
  4. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman– Coralie Sardie is forced to perform in her father’s Coney Island freak show. She teams up with Jewish immigrant Eddie Cohen to investigate the disappearance of a young Jewish girl.
  5. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman– Four women find refuge at Masada with other Jews fleeing Roman oppression. Ninety flee there. Two women and five children survive.
  6. The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman– Rachel, a beautiful Jewish girl living in St. Thomas in the early 1800s, has always been a difficult girl. When her husband dies she seizes her own life, and her rebellion has reached new heights.
  7. Henna House by Nomi Eve– Yemen, 1920. Adela is a young Jewish girl facing the prospects of marriage or being torn from her cultural identity. This is the story of a woman, her family, and the rituals that bind them.
  8. Eternal Life by Dara Horn– Rachel made a bargain and 2,000 years later she’s still trying to free herself.
  9. The Ghost of Hannah Mendes by Naomi Ragen– Catherine is desperately trying to encourage her three granddaughters to learn about their roots. Women seeking their ancestors? Pretty witchy.
  10. The Devil in Jerusalem by Naomi Ragen– Detective Bina Tzedek investigates a horrific accident in Jerusalem and ends up caught up in kabbalah, ancient texts, and cult rituals.

Celebrating What Makes Us All Mothers

Today is Mother’s Day, the day we celebrate and honor our mothers and our status as a mother. It is a beautiful day to honor the feminine.

What about those women who aren’t mothers? What does this day mean if your mother has passed away? What about the people who don’t have a good relationship with their mother? What about women whose children have passed away? For many women, Mother’s Day is a day filled with pain, loss, or feelings of just plain being left out or not being good enough.

I’ve heard people tell women who struggle on Mother’s Day to just get over it, that they should just deal with the fact that the women who do so much for us get one day. I am horrified every time I hear this. Not all mothers deserve to be honored, and many women who are not mothers do need to be recognized for their contributions.

While I think it is a great idea to honor the woman who gave you birth if you choose to do that, I think that we all have reason to celebrate and honor the values and nature of women. We need to celebrate what makes women unique. I’ve come to realize that Mother’s Day isn’t just about celebrating mothers. Or, at least it shouldn’t be. It’s a day to celebrate the divinity of women, our natures, and what makes us the creatures that bring life into this world. And all women do bring life into the world- not just those who physically give birth to children. Every woman nurtures something, children (her own or those who are birthed by others), herself, ideas- it doesn’t matter. Women nurture. That is worth celebrating.

What is a mother? A mother is creates, nurtures, builds up, disciplines, and loves her child. If you take out the biological or adoptive factors, being a mother is about a relationship. In this capacity, all women are mothers. Each of us has created something or is in the process of creating something. It doesn’t have to be another human being. We use our feminine nature to provide and gift ideas and project to the world. That’s what makes a mother. So, go out and celebrate the feminine- regardless of your status as a mother or the relationship you have with your mother. You are worthy, and you deserve it!

~Chaya Levana

Embarking on a New Path

We have all heard the saying that when one door closes another one opens. Not only have we heard it, but for the most part, we know from personal experience that it is true. But, knowing something and living it out can be two different things. We can know that better things are coming, but it can still be extremely difficult to give up the old way of doing things. Familiarity breeds comfort. This is something I have been learning this week. (I didn’t start out this blog to talk about what I’m specifically learning, but that’s what it has turned in to the past few weeks!) For the past year and a half I have been working with one of my spiritual teachers. This week I have felt a huge call to stop my classes. This isn’t because I am not learning from her- I am learning so much! Actually, this feeling has been off and on for the past two months and I have continuously talked myself into continuing the program I am taking. 

The past few days have been filled with me seriously having the feeling that I need to move onto a new path. But, there is one aspect of the program that I will really miss. Even my husband, who is not into all the woo that I am has said he doesn’t want me to stop taking my classes. (So sweet of him to support me in this way). I have debated all weekend over whether or not I need to continue. The program I am enrolled in is shamanic in nature and has a strong focus on astrology. Both of these topics are ones that I have wanted to explore more in depth. When I was talking to my husband I told him that I could continue with the astrology on my on through personal study of books (I’m a librarian so I have access to pretty much anything!) But, the shamanism is something that I have really been struggling with because it’s not something I can really learn on my own. I need to learn it from someone else. 

Well, today I was in a class when I learned that beginning this fall, another one of my teachers is going to be offering a two year shamanism program. This program will be one hundred percent focused on shamanism (which is the path I know I’m supposed to be on) and I won’t have to be in a program with information that I don’t need. This isn’t to say I’m not learning from everything in my current program, I just don’t think that it is all what I need right now. And the part that is I can get elsewhere. 

Another positive of the upcoming program is that I can take this program in person. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with online classes. I take online classes and I teach online classes. But, some programs of study are better transmitted in an in person setting where you have physical access between the teacher and the student. Shamanism is one of those things. 

So, I do think that I have my answer and that I need to bow out of my current program. I am going to miss it, but I think that in the meantime between now and when this new program begins I am going to more than have my hands full with this business. I have several new programs that I’m going to be launching over the next few months, and I think that I will be able to use my time to focus on offering ways to help each of you heal and grow as I have been. My program has already been paid through March so I have one last month, but after that, I will be embarking on preparing myself for a new path. 

Choose Your Perspective

Sometimes perspective is everything. You know, how you see something, how it appears to you when you look at it? Perception is not always reality. Recently I saw a photo that reminded me of this. Actually, it was two photos- both from April 2018. The first is of Prince William flipping off the press after the birth of his son, Prince Louis. The second is of Prince William holding up three fingers. You can view them here. In actuality, both photos are of the same moment, one just happens to be from a different perspective.

I’ve had a hard lesson in this over the past week. I have been dealing with some issues in my life that are less than pleasant. In all honesty, they are things that have left me quite miserable and depressed. I’ve never been one to battle with depression, not even when my late husband passed away. But, this winter I’ve really been dealing with it. I know what the issues are, and sadly they are not things that I can control. Anyway, not only have I been miserable and depressed, but I’ve been angry and lashing out at the person who could do something about it. Earlier this week I was almost at the point of breakdown from extreme frustration and hatred.

And that’s when it hit me. Maybe I am to blame. Wait, what? I’m not the cause of my misery. I can’t control the situation that is making me feel this way. It’s not my fault. But, maybe it is. No, I can’t control or change the situation, but I can control how I react to it. I don’t have to let it get me bitter. I don’t have to let it make me angry. And over the past few days I’ve been trying to do just that and change my attitude. I can’t change my situation, and the person who can change the situation has some issues that they are in need of working through. Perhaps if I’m more patient and understanding this person will be more likely to make the necessary changes in their life. Maybe not. But, my whining and nagging about it will not make things any better.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Our ego gets in the way and we focus on ourselves and our own point of view. But, when the ego is in control we are rarely seeing things as they truly are. I am learning that when I feel slighted and wronged I need to act by taking a step back and getting my ego out of the way before I react and things go sour.