By Debbi K. Levy
The massage therapist pushed her thumb down, hard and with precision, on the crown of my head. That pressure, alone, was a counterpose to my daily attempts to lift that spot on my head one millimeter closer to the heavens. My eyes softened in response to the skill of her pressure on my skull, and as I thought about the mindfulness practice I typically use to ground myself, the ship rocked gently, back and forth. My grounding efforts soon gave way to a feeling of my spirit lifting. I could observe all my plans for centering falling away. I embraced the overdue freedom to wander and roam.
With a head and heart so full of shiny new experiences on our summer cruise, my mind welcomed the rare opportunity to zoom through time and space without the restriction of a daily schedule that typically includes calendar invites and lengthy to-do lists, the mainstay of my days. I had almost forgotten how decadent it feels to linger in imagination and reflection.
Having had the wondrous opportunity during our holiday to tour the National Chagall Museum in Nice, I pondered artist Marc Chagall’s knowledge of the Bible, and his relationship with our Creator. Every painting that I was fortunate enough to witness told a sacred Jewish story, with perspectives of an ancient people and, simultaneously, a post-Holocaust people. What a gift, I thought to myself, to linger here and process all that I was taking in.
Like so many around the globe, Barry and I hadn’t traveled much at all in the face of the pandemic, and the wear and tear of protocols and work that bled into all the hours we were allotted in a day showed up as lines in our faces and a lack of patience with others as well as ourselves. Although my yoga and meditation practices kept me in awareness of these negative side effects, we hoped the sight of the ocean would jar us out of pandemic-formed habits and clingy fears. I found gratitude for the various practices through a Jewish lens that held me, and I was even more grateful for the safe outcome of my family, but I knew I needed to be ungrounded for a time, to invite my spirit to hit the refresh button.
As I write this column, I am staring at white ocean caps that form quickly and disappear in an instant. The color of the ocean is somewhere between darkest lapis lazuli and a lighter shade of sapphire. Dallas and her oak trees feel very far away on this windy day at sea. Tomorrow we will disembark in Spain, and every moment until then feels like a gift I am unwrapping, of luxurious time. Like the good mindfulness instructor I am, I pay attention and notice everything. I am not rushed. I even wonder about you, reader, perusing this column with a pulse rate that might have slowed down, and a breath cycle that might be deepening as you read further.
The time has come for a confession. I was not enthusiastic about traveling. Although I recognized a toll on me that included impatience, cycling of redundant thoughts and even knots of anxiety about going further than the edges of Texas, I seemed to grasp at sameness, to a routine that did not open a door to imagination or renewal. Thankfully, I lost the senseless battle with myself and am able to write from a warm deck chair, toes wiggling and shoulders drawing down from my ears.
Each time I put pen to paper in the art of expression, I try to encircle words with a sacred kavanah, or intention. This one seems so simple given the distance from my usual life. Take leave.
In the tradition of the Israelites, take leave and wander. Allow your mind to rest and your heart to bring up moments that have yet to be resolved or, at the very least, explored. Invite the seeds of curiosity to bear fruit. Trust that the tension built up in your physical body will begin to soften. May those strangers who meet you while you are away, greet you like Abraham and Sarah, with a wide, welcoming tent, as you journey across the world, or only miles away from your home. The prayer I would share with you, as you commit to taking some time away, would be a coming home to yourself in a body that feels refreshed, with a soul that has acquired new wisdom and meaningful experiences. Amen.
Debbi K. Levy is on a path to becoming a Hebrew Priestess in 5783. She welcomes your emails at Debbiklevy@gmail.com.