Sunday, August 29, 2010

Crossing the Narrow Bridge--Together

For the past nine years I have wanted to learn Breslov Chasidut with someone, anyone, near my home. As there is no vibrant Breslov community here I was pretty much tough outta luck. I continued on my not so merry way, and occasionally I would meet up with someone who would be willing to learn a little with me. I must say, those times were like a small oasis to me and I was most grateful for them but they lasted only weeks, if I was lucky. By nobody's fault the learning simply fizzled out. Well, perhaps it was someone's fault. Maybe even mine. Perhaps I just wasn't ready. Perhaps I was not committed to learning with others and sharing that learning. Perhaps I simply did not want it enough then, because this past summer I have enjoyed the sweetness of learning with a group of ladies that have become such a precious time in my week and particularly of my shabbat.

It all started when I met one lady at shul (synagogue). Now allow me to preface this with just a little something about me. I tend to consider myself a bit shy, but when my radar goes up and says to me 'You must get to know this person.' , shyness be damned, I hone in and meet them. I do not ignore that inner voice because I know there is something I need to learn from them, some message they have for me. Well, lucky for me, this lady turned out to be a kindred, new to the neighborhood and even more shy. I was tickled to realize that the Divine had already prepped me for this meeting by having me read about her and her family in the local neighborhood paper in a "Welcome to Neighborhood" piece. I was so blessed and I knew I needed to make an effort to become friends. You see, my shyness was a direct combination and result of being hurt so badly by a few folks in the neighborhood and the loss of my mother two and half years ago. I certainly did not want to be hurt again and so I made sure not to be by holding back. But Hashem had other plans and deep within, I found the courage to take a chance and step forward. I am so happy I did! After a few weeks of the casual getting to know you type visiting, I noticed a book on her end table. It was a Breslov book, Crossing the Narrow Bridge and a light went off for me! Maybe, just maybe, this time would be different. We started talking about learning and she expressed interest in learning Breslov Chasidut as did my other friend who was with me and BOOM a study group emerged!

We decided it would be on shabbat and we would alternate homes. After a few weeks another friend joined us and now there is a core of four ladies. We have also enjoyed the occasional and added pleasure of having a reoccurring visitor to our group when she comes in to visit for shabbat and just this past week, another lady joined us! I felt like I was in heaven! Six ladies all sitting in the living room and learning the sweet teachings of my Rebbe, our Rebbe! Since it is a casual learning environment, all of us taking turns reading and commenting when we feel led, we have not gotten very far in the book, page 98 to be exact, but the depth to which I feel it in my soul and my heart is immense. I find myself opening up to these ladies. I have found myself being quite honest with myself and them, realizing where I have challenges, where I need to grow and where I can help. I feel my emunah(faith) growing and the sweetness of friendship blossoming! What a refreshment in my life! And what a need being fulfilled.

It amazes me the way the Universe aligns and provides for needs you may have given up hope at ever seeing fulfilled. I feel so blessed and full with my Shabbat Ladies. I feel so blessed for the precious gift of our learning and time. There has been laughter and jokes shared, struggles and 'I'm not quite there' moments, and through this time I am realizing one very important thing: Rebbe Nachman tells us that "The whole world is a very narrow bridge, the main this is not be afraid." Well, truth be told, it sure is a lot easier to not be afraid when there is someone else there on the bridge with you and even better if you know they will hold your hand and cross it with you.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

The Face of Turbulence By Jesse Wolf Hardin

This is a beautiful poem by someone I count as one of my mentors, Jesse Wolf Hardin, of the Anima Lifeways and Herbal School.

The Face of Turbulence – a poem by Jesse Wolf Hardin

And the monsoons continue,
their swelling dark promise
bursting forth as searing lightning and crashing thunder,
setting an example some afternoons
by pouring their stormy hearts out.

Pouring down the cliff sides,
and deepening the river.
Pouring down our cabin roofs,
and overflowing the gutters.
Overflowing our barrels
with a deafening din,
overflowing the carefully dug ditches that
like many projects and missions in life,
we know must be dug again
and again, and again.

Pouring down on us as we rush to tend
what needs tending and covering,
rivulets down our faces indistinguishable
from life’s clearly unavoidable tears.
Pouring rain, and then pouring
and unforgiving hail.

I look straight up
into the blinding white face of turbulence,
squint and then smile…
remembering well
what it’s like to be dry and thirsty,
even as the many little frozen balls
shoulder against the trail’s edge
in piles.

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A Nightmarish Situation

This came up on my facebook feed and I couldn't believe it even after reading it twice. A mother who refused to sign off on a pre-consent to cesarean consent form has had her child removed from her custody for the past THREE years. File this under: unfreakinbelievable!

Mother Loses Baby for Three Years

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Soul Garden

I come across a parched and weed filled garden.
Planted with love, tended with devotion the day to day stealing the time away from the Beloved.
My eyes become heavy and my heart feels a hole as I bend down to look closer.
I reach out and touch the now dry and withered plants.
One there was medicine here.
Once there was peace.
Once there was healing.
Once there was growth.
I begin to trim away the dry stems and pull out the excessive clover. I find the earth is crying from thirst, the clover has prevented the rain from even reaching the soil.
As if in answer to a prayer, the rain begins to fall. I feel the drops falling on my back and with gratitude, ignore the dampness. This garden needs me.
I continue to pull, small plants which I think should come out with ease have sent their roots deep into the earth. I curse the plant and begin to wonder how long has it been.
I pity the once beautiful garden and get back to work.
I discover lavender and yarrow, columbine and lemon balm. How could this have happened with such treasures lying here? Who could have been so neglectful?
I pull at a vine and find it has twisted itself desperately around a sunflower. I reach down and grasp it by it's roots and untangle the strangling tendrils from it. I imagine I hear a gasp for air...or did I?
The rain has stopped and I look up. Grey skies filled with clouds pregnant with rain and the earth still so dry. I comfort myself with the knowing that at least now there is space here for the life giving water.
Suddenly a Voice so soft, so loving, whispers in my ears.
I know this Voice. It is the Voice of a long lost friend.
My, it's been so very long.
I cast my eyes down to the now repaired garden.
"Welcome back to your soul." the Voice says.

©Village Wise Woman

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Herbal Ally: Yarrow

Yarrow is a dear, dear friend of mine. I discovered this lovely plant on a trip to Salem, Mass. several years ago. At the time it was mostly a lot of folklore and stories, and the more I read about Yarrow, the more intrigued I was. Yarrow has a reputation for being the "Witches Herb" and I have no issues with that, considering I think 'witch' is a term that was thrown around haphazardly at any woman who was skilled in herbs, midwifery and healing. Let's just say the 'misogynistic religious right' was quite intimidated, with the herbwifes and midwives who came before us. I myself can accept the fact that if I was currently in those times, I'd have been burnt at the stake several times over by now. :::sheesh::

Yarrow is an amazing herb. Just being in her presence relaxes and calms the mind. Her gentle scent is very soothing. I personally love to pet the flowers and enjoy how each tiny flower feels of my hand. Spending time with a plant is truly the best way to get to know it. Even allowing it to 'speak' to you. (How do you Wise Women of the past learned how to use herbs?) By the way, do not think this is an odd practice or expectation . The book of Iyov/Job, chapter 12 verse 8 states, "...Speak to the earth, and it will teach you." Expect the plant to teach you what it is good for and begin to trust your intuition regarding it. By developing a relationship with the plant you will learn more than you ever expected to. That said, a little book knowledge doesn't hurt, so I did some online research and decided to post that information here for you. But don't be limited to what is here. Go out and find some yarrow! It grows wild in many parts of North America and Europe or you may find a neighbor who would be willing to let you keep their yarrow company. Heck, it couldn't hurt to ask!

From the Alternative Nature Online Herbal: and Herb Monographs


Achillea millefolium

Other Names: Milfoil, Old Man's Pepper, Soldier's Woundwort, Knight's Milfoil, Thousand Weed, Nose Bleed, Carpenter's Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed

Yarrow is a perennial herb, native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America and most other countries throughout the world. Yarrow is very common along roadsides and in old fields, pastures, and meadows in the eastern and central United States and Canada.

Yarrow is easily cultivated, will survive in poor soil. Prefers a well-drained soil in a sunny position. A very good companion plant, it improves the health of plants growing nearby and enhances their essential oil content thus making them more resistant to insect predations also improves the soil fertility.

Parts used:
All parts of the herb that are above the ground are used, flowers, leaves and stems

Collection and preparation: Harvest Yarrow in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day. Yarrow is best dried upside down in a dark, airy, dry place

up to 0.5% volatile oil, flavonoids, tannins, a bitter alkaloid

Diaphoretic, hypotensive, astringent, diuretic, antiseptic, anticatarrhal, emmenagogue, hepatic, stimulant, tonic

Fevers, common cold, essential hypertension, digestive complaints, loss of appetite, amenorrhoea, dysentery, diarrhoea. Specifically indicated in thrombotic conditions with hypertension, including cerebral and coronary thromboses. Used topically for slow-healing wounds and skin inflammations.
Yarrow is a valuable diaphoretic herb and is the central ingredient in any fever-management programme. It prevents the body temperature from rising too high but has a minimal suppressant effect on the course of the fever.

The flowers are rich in chemicals that are converted by steam distillation into anti-allergenic compounds, of use in the treatment of allergic catarrhal problems such as hay fever. The dark blue essential oil, azulene, is generally used as an anti-inflammatory, or in chest rubs for colds and influenza.

Yarrow lowers high blood pressure by dilating the peripheral vessels, and it also tones the blood vessels. It is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with high blood pressure. Used externally, its astringent properties will aid in the healing of wounds, and it has been used to treat haemorrhoids and varicose veins. The leaves encourage blood clotting, so can be used fresh for nosebleeds. However, inserting a leaf in the nostril may also start a nosebleed. Achillea has also been used in the treatment of heavy and painful periods, and the presence of steroidal constituents may help to explain this activity.

Yarrow grows from 10 to 20 inches high, a single stem, fibrous and rough, the leaves alternate, 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch broad, larger and rosette at the base, clasping the stem, bipinnatifid, the segments very finely cut, fern-like, dark-green, giving the leaves a feathery appearance. The flowers are several bunches of flat-topped panicles consisting of numerous small, white flower heads. Each tiny flower resembling a daisy. The whole plant is more or less hairy, with white, silky appressed hairs. Flowers bloom from May to August. Gather stem, leaves and flower heads in bloom, dry for later herb use. Dry herb edible as a spice or flavoring, strong sage flavor.


Yarrow is a very valuable medicinal herb, with much scientific evidence of use in alternative medicine as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, stimulant, and tonics, vasodilator and vulnerary. Yarrow is used against colds, cramps, fevers, kidney disorders, toothaches, skin irritations, and hemorrhages, and to regulate menses, stimulate the flow of bile, and purify the blood. Medicinal tea is a good remedy for severe colds and flu, for stomach ulcers, amenorrhea, abdominal cramps, abscesses, trauma and bleeding, and to reduce inflammation. The main constituents are volatile oils including linalool, camphor, sabinene, and chamazulene, sesquiterpene lctones, flavanoids, alkaloids including achilleine, polyacetylenes, triterpenes, salicylic acid, coumarins, and tannins which prove these uses in alternative medicine to be effective. Extracts of yarrow exhibit antibiotic activity and may also act as anti-neoplastic drugs. Externally for treating wounds and stopping the flow of blood. Yarrow oil has been traditionally used in hair shampoos. Some caution is advised , large or frequent doses taken over a long period may cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight.

In rare cases yarrow can cause severe allergic skin rashes. Prolonged use can increase the skin's photosensitivity. Large doses should be avoided in pregnancy because the herb is a uterine stimulant. Excessive doses may interfere with existing anticoagulant and hypo- or hypertensive therapies. Caution should be exercised by epileptic patients

Folklore and additional comments
Yarrow stalks are traditionally thrown to read the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination. Yarrows botanical name Achillea refers to the ancient Greek hero Achilles, who, during the Trojan War, reputedly used it to treat his wounds. Its specific name means ‘a thousand leaves’ and refers to its feathery foliage. The folk name Nosebleed confirms its traditional use as an emergency styptic. The name ‘yarrow’ is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon name for the plant, gearwe.

Yarrow was used for love divination in the past, one of the herbs dedicated to the Evil One, in earlier days being sometimes known as Devil's Nettle, Devil's Plaything, Bad Man's Plaything, and was used for divination in spells. In Ireland young girls would cut a square sod in which grew a yarrow plant and place it beneath their pillow so that they would dream of their sweetheart. In France and Ireland it is one of the herbs of St. John, and on St. John’s Eve the Irish hang it in their homes to avert illness. It has been employed as a snuff and, in the seventeenth century, it was an ingredient of salads. In Sweden it has been used in the manufacture of beer and the peppery leaves and the flowers are used to flavour liqueurs.

Folk tales tell of how yarrow can prevent but not cure baldness. It is said to attract friends and distant relations to you and, if used in the bridal bouquet, it is believed to ensure that love will last for at least seven years. It was also believed that the yarrow could help you find your true love, either by sleeping with yarrow under your pillow to bring dreams of your true love or by cutting the stems across the middle, which would reveal the initials of your future spouse

A popular remedy for treating fevers and feverish conditions, yarrow was once used as a substitute for quinine. Native Americans burned yarrow to help drive away evil spirits, and it’s said that to understand the voice of yarrow, chew a little of the root and hold it in the mouth, a tea of leaf and flower will continue the story. European women would throw yarrow onto the fire and look into the flames for a picture of their future husband.

Whilst yarrow will stop a nosebleed it may (see above in Therapeutics) also start one, this was used to relieve a headache. It has been employed as snuff, and is also called Old Man's Pepper, on account of the pungency of its foliage. Both flowers and leaves have a bitter, astringent, pungent taste. In the seventeenth century it was an ingredient of salads.

In the middle ages, yarrow was one of the ingredients in Gruit, a selection of herbs that were used to make beer, before the widespread use of hops. Other Gruit ingredients included sweet gale, mugwort and juniper

Dried yarrow flowers can be used for decoration and in pot-pourri mixture. Leaves added to the compost bin help speed up the process. An infusion of yarrow can also be made and added to the garden to boost copper levels.

Dried yarrow included in incense or smoked in a pipe is very calming and has a lovely scent, thoroughly recommended for lowering stress levels.

The weirdest suggestion found when researching folklore of Yarrow is that if the hands are smeared with yarrow juice and then plunged into a river they will act as magnets to fish. This one has yet to be confirmed!

Preparation and dosage

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 to 2 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes, drink hot three times a day
Tincture: take 2 to 4ml of the tincture three times a day.

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More on Yarrow

It's been a while since I have checked out the blogs I am supposed to be following. Well, I just did and lookie what I found! A lovely post on yarrow by Methow Valley .

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Friend the Tree

May I introduce to you my friend, The Tree.

I met this friend three years ago when I started working my summer job at a local Friend's school. There is a very old meetinghouse there, established somewhere in the 1600's. I enjoy working there during the summers, change of locale and people. The children are darling and the campus is gorgeous. Behind the meetinghouse is a very old cemetery with a variety of trees growing. They seem to me to be sentinels, watching over both the living and the dead. In this setting is where I met her, my friend The Tree.

I was first drawn to her by her lovely, spread out roots. The first year I was there we would pass by her, taking the short cut through the cemetery to the athletic fields where the children would have sports, and I noted her roots. I pointed them out to the children and they of course began to clamor all about her. It seem there is nothing more enticing to children then a large welcoming tree. They felt her bark, ran among her roots, studied the insects crawling on her. It felt magical!

As I began to run my own hands on her smooth bark I too began to get swept up in her magic. I marveled at her roots spreading out into the cemetery. I studied her trunk which appears to me to be many smaller trees twisting their bodies into one entity. As the children began to spontaneously hug her, I followed their lead and embraced my new friend. Her huge trunk made me feel small and safe, as if she was some kind of Great Mother.

My second year I saw my friend again and repeated the ritual. I felt welcomed once again in the peaceful setting and there my friend waited for my return. New bugs and creatures were discovered, moss and lichens. My magical friend taught me of constancy and patience. Again I felt safe.

This year, upon my reuniting with my friend, I performed what I did not realize became a ritual of sorts. Every time we would walk by I would walk up to her and pat her, smiling. I felt she was a gift of the Holy One, a metaphor for the Tree of Life. Her she was again, steadfast and strong, watchful and inviting. On one of my encounters with my friend, my co teacher remarked saying,

"You really love that tree, don't you?"
"I do." I laughed embarrassed. "Why do you say that?"
"Because every time we pass by you touch it."

Apparently this did not go unnoticed by the children either. They began pointing excitedly every time we would draw near to her exclaiming, "Look! It's your friend The Tree!!"

I laughed out loud! My friend, The Tree.

I decided to formalize our friendship, so I greeted her saying, "Hello my friend, The Tree. Thank you for your gifts. Thank you for being a friend." I hugged her.

It's amazing to me where you find Love. In the eyes of your children, other people's children. Love in the words written across a page, a forgotten message of devotion. In the eyes of a stranger or a long time friend. Family, companions, travelers along The Path. Divine Love is found everywhere and in everything. Look deep into your heart, into my heart, Love is there.
Or into the woods, or nearer still and find a tree. Who knows, you too may make a new friend, The Tree. I never expected to have the Holy One show me love through a tree. Silly I know, why of course wouldn't I. I suppose then, I still have a lot to learn.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

A New Sister of Mine Writes

A new sister of mine, friendship forged by the meeting of hearts, minds and souls, an artist brought to me by another sister, has honored our time this past Rosh Chodesh by writing about it. Please check out this POWERFUL verse written by Melissa! It made me shiver, and I was there!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Devotion, Drums and Dance

"If you make it they will come." This famous line from Field of Dreams repeated over and over in my head as I prepared for last night to come. Born of a thought and a vision that I have had for quite some time now, I wanted to gather the women on rosh chodesh to have a drum circle, dance and share in sweet sisterhood while connecting to the One. It occurred to me about three weeks ago that if I was going to do this, Elul would be the time.

The Baal ShemTov called the days of Elul the days when the King is in the field. He explained this with a parable. Normally, in order to gain an audience with the King, one must go through a lengthy procedure. He must travel to the capitol city, arrange an appointment, and then get permission to enter the palace. Even when permission is granted is may be days or weeks before he is finally allowed to enter. When he does finally get to... see the King, the audience is likely to be short and very formal. The citizen, not used to the royal surroundings doubtlessly feels out of place, and maybe even regrets his decision to see the King. From his great fear and uneasiness, he may forget to put his request before the King. Once a year, the King leaves his capitol to visit the various regions of his Kingdom. Now a King can't just enter a city unannounced. When he reaches the outskirts of the city he is to visit, his entourage sets up a camp while a special delegation goes ahead to the city to make preparations. for the King's visit. In the meantime, the King is in the field; relaxed and enjoying the early fall weather. He doesn't stand on the same formality that he does when in the palace. The common folk are allowed to come out to greet the King and receive his blessing. During Chodesh Elul, the King is in the field and he is easily accessible. We need only make the effort to go out and greet Him.

So my idea was, "Let's have a dance party/drum circle to celebrate the King's arrival to the fields!"! I truly thought that I and the three other women I learn with would be the only ones there. It never occurred to me that Hashem would use me to actually accomplish the vision He planted in my heart. The weeks went by and women started asking if they could bring a friend or two. Others came to me to ask me if anyone could come. Suddenly, the four of us became a score of us!

With these thoughts in mind, about an hour or so before I was suppose to arrive, I was stricken with an anxiety attack that I could not believe! My stomach went into knots and my mind began slinging thoughts and accusations at me like thousands of tiny pebbles being thrown at me from every direction.
"What have you done?" "What have you gotten yourself into!" "What if you can't keep a beat?" "You are no professional!" "They will be bored!" "Who do you think you are anyway?" "You are no rebbitzen!"

I felt paralyzed and frightened and then finally the Voice, quiet and firm spoke to my heart, "Who is this about anyway? Why are you doing this? This is not about you, is it?" Baruch Hashem!!! No, it was not about me at all! I was not doing this for me! I laughed a bit at myself and my oh so vociferous ego and replied, "No, this is NOT about me. It is about YOU! It is about G-d, and my desire to serve the King and my sisters."

Finally, I came to the conclusion, "Who cares?" So what if all those things my poor frightened ego said were true, I simply wanted to give a gift to the King. I simply wanted to be with my sisters to worship and sing, to drum and dance. That's all, nothing more, nothing less. That was my intention and my prayer.

As I arrived at my hostess' home, I began to get excited about the possibilities. What if indeed we could welcome Elul with devotion, drums and dance and maybe help the shift in the cosmos that happens this month to be stronger? After I set up the chairs, I went outside to the circle and prayed. I prayed that The Holy One would guide my hand, "Please let me keep a beat." I prayed that my voice would be praise, I prayed that my heart would be open and then I got down to the real business. I invited the Shechinah, the Divine Presence/Divine Feminine to join us and I asked that every woman there would leave there changed and closer to the Source. As I prayed I constantly had to stifle my ego and my thoughts that attempted to assail me again with their fears. Finally the thought occurred to me, I am a doula, I help women birth. "Hashem please," I prayed, "let this time be a time of birth and let me help these women to birth themselves, their dreams and a new closeness to You."

And with that the doorbell rang and the first woman to the circle had arrived.

I have faith that the night went well, for myself it feel it did. I simply tried to connect to my Creator and share that love with all. After the drum circle we had a time of dancing which was, oh so fun, and a lovely community fruit salad that every lady contributed to by simply bringing one fruit to share. Oh, and let me not forget our moon cakes made by our sweet hostess who opened her home to us and provided us a place for the gathering of the women.

May you all have a lovely and meaningful Elul! The King is in the field, go and greet Him!!

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