Friday, September 10, 2010

When Pilates and Judaism Come Together

Happy New Year everyone! I have to say, one of the best things about being Jewish (besides the brisket) is that we celebrate our New Year in September, which for me has always seemed more appropriate than in January. You start school; you start a new year. It's simple.

This Rosh Hashanah was really new for me because I switched synagogues. My entire life, I've gone to Conservative synagogues, but this year I joined a Reform temple. There are lots of differences between Conservative and Reform services, and I wasn't sure I would like them all. I was afraid there wouldn't be enough Hebrew and that I would miss my favorite traditional tunes. Plus I felt sad leaving the many wonderful people I knew from my synagogue. It had been a comfortable place. I knew exactly what to expect there. But lately, it felt as if I were going through the motions, not feeling inspired or uplifted. I knew it was time to try something new.

My new temple is led by Rabbi Karyn Kedar. And clearly, if I was looking for inspiration, I've come to the right place. Rabbi Kedar writes books, she blogs, and she speaks in a powerful yet humble way. I know I will learn so much from her. The first blog entry I read from her was about her practice of thinking of a word prior to the start of the New Year, and dedicated herself to the full understanding of that word. Her word this year is humility. I loved this idea, and I spent several days thinking about what word I would want to bring so powerfully into my life.

Patience. Creativity. Humility. Excellence. Love. These words danced in my brain, all of them holding some kind of draw but none of them feeling exactly right. Then I went to my weekly Pilates class, taught by my beautiful and talented friend, Julie Cheifetz. As always, Julie reminded us that Pilates is not about the movement but rather about the stabilization of your core when the movement happens. And that's when I realized I'd found the perfect word: Stability.

Although I am not an extremely moody person or really that unstable in general, I hate when I let external factors impact the person I ideally want to be. So this year, I will focus on stability in every circumstance.

I got some practice this week when taking my daughter, Faith, to school in Connecticut. I am severely directionally-challenged, and even with a GPS device in my rented car, I was still feeling that tense anxiety of driving on unfamiliar roads. Then there was the added stressor of construction traffic making me late for the birthday dinner I was hosting for my daughter and her friends. I felt my body and mind begin to stress, so I reminded myself to stabilize my core. I actually tightened my stomach muscles, breathed deeply, and instantly felt better able to handle wrong turns, traffic, and the idea that I would most definitely be late. At a red light, I texted Faith to let her know the situation. She texted back, "ok." It wasn't a big deal after all.

I intend to fully explore the idea of stability this year. If this practice sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to think about a word to focus on, too. Leave your word in the comments. You don't need to be Jewish to play along!


Carol Grannick said...

Rabbi Kedar has been a spiritual inspiration for me for years now, ever since I participated in a short workshop she gave at Schechter on "re-visioning" the Sh'ma. It made such a strong impact that the images she created stay with me each time I recite it. How wonderful for you to have her ongoing inspiration!

Brenda Ferber said...

Hey Carol,
If you want to see Rabbi Kedar's sermon from Rosh Hashana, you can view it on the bjbe website. Very inspiring!