When Every Day Will Be Tu B’Shevat by Ivy Helman.

ivy tree huggingTomorrow is Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, or their birthday.  It is the day of the year when all trees, regardless of when they have been planted, turn another year older.  The rabbis standardized this day in an effort to minimize complexities, since in the land of Israel, fruit can only be eaten from trees that are four or older (Leviticus 23-25).  Tu B’Shevat, then, on a practical level, marks how old fruit bearing trees are.   

The holiday has evolved since then.  In the 16th century, Kabbalistic mystics developed a seder to celebrate the holiday, which involved eating certain fruits, drinking both red and white wine, saying blessings, and reading certain mystical texts.  Each type of fruit one eats has a specific mystical meaning whether the fruit is completely edible (i.e. apple), has an inedible pit (i.e. olive), has an inedible shell (i.e. pistachio) or has a covering one generally wouldn’t eat, but could (i.e. orange). To this day, many congregations observe the holiday by hosting their own Tu B’Shevat seders often ripe with such kabbalistic overtones.  Continue reading “When Every Day Will Be Tu B’Shevat by Ivy Helman.”

It’s Called Practice For a Reason by Kate M. Brunner

My daily practice isn’t what I’d like it to be these days what with working two jobs, raising three teenagers, and going to grad school. I am clocking about 60 hours of work and school every week, which doesn’t leave very many spare hours for formal ritual, prayer, or meditation.

During previous phases of my life, I’ve had a daily devotional practice that’s taken on many different forms as my spiritual studies  deepen. I’ve learned to use new tools, and gone from singing other people’s chants to writing my own and creating my own prayers. As my path unfolded, my practice evolved. But last autumn, life shifted when I went back to school and shifted again a couple of months ago when I added a second job to the mix. My spiritual practice over the last month has been sporadic, random moments stolen from other obligations to say a rushed prayer, a chant sung on the drive to work, or an energy center balancing done in the shower before bed.

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind was the fact that I had committed to attending a 4-day training intensive within the Avalonian Tradition, followed immediately by a 4-day leadership retreat for the Sisterhood of Avalon. A couple of weeks ago, with my daily practice in what felt like utter shambles, I suffered an bout of extreme self-doubt. What was I thinking committing to this training intensive and leadership work when I couldn’t even manage to find 15 minutes every day to engage the practice of my faith? How on earth could I think I was ready for this? Should I even still go? Continue reading “It’s Called Practice For a Reason by Kate M. Brunner”

Chants of Help and Self-Compassion to Heal the World by Elisabeth Schilling

green path
Recently I have cultivated a meditation practice. I only meditate for about 20 minutes, usually taking a comfortable position on a sunlit patch of carpet near an open window in the late afternoon when no one is home. My meditation is simple. It just consists of being aware of my breath, feeling my body, and a chant. The chant for this week is what I would like to share. It is a chant of help and self-compassion that may nourish you as it has me.

Camakam is a Vedic chant that comes from one of the four Vedas, Yajurveda, meaning prose mantra (yajus) and knowledge (veda). I have come to knowledge of a portion of it through Nicolai Bachman’s audio Chants Asking for Help. It is a prayer for the fulfillment of wishes, the description to this one says. Below is a sample with the translated lyrics in italics:


[. . .] śam ca me [. . .] and peace to me,

mayaśca me and delight to me,

priyam ca me and love to me,

‘nukamaśca me and proper desire to me,

kamaśca me and desire to me,

saumanasaśca me and positive thoughts to me,

bhadram ca me and a blessing to me,

śreyaśca me and the best for me,

vasyaśca me and better (things) for me,

It may seem arrogant or selfish to express these thoughts. But this is not a situation of wanting power-over or to boost the ego. I don’t feel individualistic or prideful when I pray these wishes in meditation. It is more of a feeling of healing, being courageous enough to speak good into the universe for myself, being a supportive mother to myself. Continue reading “Chants of Help and Self-Compassion to Heal the World by Elisabeth Schilling”

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