Author Archives: Elisheva

Sacred Heart Songs for a Sacred Journey

Hearing is the first sense to come in while we’re in the womb. Hearing is also the last sense to go. There’s nothing like singing to someone on his deathbed to remind you of how awesome life is and how small problems really are.

A friend who was working in hospice said to me, “I want to make this man’s passing holy. I can’t seem to find how to do it.” The man was Jewish. I suggested, “I can come over and sing Hebrew chants.”

My friend is a brilliant, former software engineer who now gets paid much less to tutor children and do hospice work. Although his bank account is less well fed these days, his heart and soul are abundantly overflowing and his life is meaningful.

We were on King’s Mountain sitting on a deck facing a yard full of redwood trees discussing a man’s passing. Hard to imagine that less than ten miles away an industrial freeway hummed with fast paced traffic bringing people home from their Silicon Valley jobs. But in the forest, no one is king and no one gets out alive.

I found my Self at the dying man’s bedside a few days later. His eyes were closed and his breathing wasn’t that labored, yet. My friend informed me that Richard hadn’t communicated or even opened his eyes for 24 hours or more. I leaned over and put my hand on his head while I spoke softly to him, “At the end of life, all the stories of life fall away, and all that’s left is Love. So let the stories fall away, Richard. Just watch them fall away.” He seemed to nod slightly.

3mThx8FPBoPOvSg573BM96U_doIXlOW53xT8FD8H5UQ - Version 2“Shema Yisrael, Adonoi Eloheynu, Adonoi Echad.” The first line of the most important prayer in Judaism was sung through me with no warning. Richard twitched in response. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” This is the prayer that for devout Jews, is the first thing on their lips at the start of the morning, the last thing on their lips before sleep and the last thing on their lips before death. Richard heard and felt the message of Unity behind this prayer. This time, maybe he heard it as the call home.

The next song was what I had planned to sing first. “Shalom Aleichem” calls in the angels of peace, the angels of song. “Peace to you, angels of God,” begins the comforting melodic chant with Middle Eastern intervals. It ends with, “May you leave in peace,” which suddenly had even greater meaning given the circumstances.

I’ve sung to dying people before. Each time I sing to a person in hospice I feel like I’m doing profound sacred work. It feels like a blessing, a mitzvah, a good deed. My mantra before doing this work is, “The Divine expresses in, through, as and all around me.” Saying this with deep intention gets my little self out of the way so that the very highest and best can happen. It gets me out of judgment of my voice, critical thinking, keeps me centered in the heart, and is my personal ritual before being in service in a way that has been cultivated for years.

Each Hebrew song or chant came back to me, although it had been years since I sang so many all at once. The words and melodies were easily remembered and the placement of the tones was exquisite. I witnessed as the sounds came through me in the most beautiful way imaginable. The heights soared, the mid tones sailed and the low tones resonated with a deep sense of knowing. The minor scales came easily, notes bending like reeds swaying in the wind. This was described by a friend who was a classical musician as, “You sing in quarter tones.”

When I got to the 23rd Psalm, I stopped and said, “You know, there’s a line in this psalm that has another interpretation than the usual translation in English.”

My friend was anxious to hear it. “Do tell. Being raised by a Protestant minister, I heard this psalm often and had huge problems with it,” he shared passionately.

“Thou preparest a table for me in front of mine enemes,” I began.

“That’s exactly the part I have trouble with!” my friend interrupted.

I continued, “Another interpretation is, ‘thou preparest a table before me in front of my sorrows.’ Maybe its interpreted the way it has been because our sorrows are our enemies.” This seemed to satisfy my friend. “Just feel it this time. Don’t think of the words,” I suggested. My friend nodded, closed his eyes and sat quietly while I began, “Mizmor le David. Adonoi ro-eeh, Adonoi ro-ehh, lo ech-sad, lo ech-sad.” which translates to “Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

With each song the Presence was felt. Richard showed signs of recognition during the melodies that are most popular in North American synagogues. His eyelids would flutter, or his right hand would tremor, or he would grunt, or make some noise. His appreciation was felt, which only deepened my gratitude; gratitude for being called to service; gratitude for being able to serve in such a meaningful, unique way; gratitude for the beauty, love and depth beyond the physical realm coming through my voice.

Sometimes I would hum and the humming would meld into familiar intervals, and then the words would come. “Kadesh, kadesh yameinu, kadesh yameinu, ke-kedem – Make us holy (sanctify us) as is in the days of old.” Richard grunted and sighed deeply. “Maher Ahoov, chi ba mo-ed, ve choneni kimei olam – Hurry Beloved, for the time is near, and have mercy on me for all time.”

Many tunes later, when the time felt right, I placed my hand over Richard’s heart and said, “Richard, remember to let go of the stories of life and let Love prevail.” Richard grunted and fluttered his eyelids to let us know he understood and to thank us for the time we had together.

“Have a good journey home, Richard,” I said. Before I turned to leave, once again the melody came through unexpectedly and we ended where the session began, “Shema Yisrael, Adonoi Eloheynu, Adonoi Echad – Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” I prayed it was the last thing Richard heard.

Although I was the one singing, it felt like Richard gave me a gift. Love sings me and it is a great joy. In the end, I get out of the way and all that’s left is Love.

 

How to Charm a Bull

(originally published in HaLapid, the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies)

 

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First of all, you must be able to sing in Spanish. Then, you must be able to sing as if all you had ever known was Love. Then the bull will hear you. Then the bull will respect you, will come running to you.

The Rio Grande Valley was home to my parents, home to their ancestors. My parents were born here. The six-acre parcel I was on was purchased in recent times by my aunt and uncle, Tia Pila and Tio Fino. Pila is my mother’s oldest sister. She and Fino, along with my mother and father, left the world of farming to move to Illinois to work in factories and raise families. My aunt and uncle raised their large family down the block from us. When my mother died, my aunt, uncle and father moved back to the place where they had grown up.

This land holds history for my family. Ancestors who lived in the Valley probably since it was New Spain owned land here. The dirt I was standing on may have been home to me if it hadn’t been stolen away.  Native Americans believe land can never be owned. It belongs to Mother Earth.

I wonder what life would have been like growing up here. Would I have traveled so much? Would I have gotten an education? Or would I be a singer in a mariachi band singing “cu-cu-ru-cu-cu cantaba” instead of “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” in New Thought churches?

Maybe if I had felt this attached to the land growing up, I wouldn’t have been so restless. The Midwest gifted me with mulberries, apples, sour rhubarb, wild grapes and corn fields in the summer. And oh how I loved rolling in the autumn leaves. And the spring. Somehow I was always becoming one with the mud in the springtime. That’s a different story. But the winters were so harsh. There were too many layers between the ground and me.

I looked like Snow White in the winter with my black hair and light skin. In fact, that was my first nickname when I moved to Israel. It was in the holy land that I realized I preferred being sun kissed to my original pale color.

The July heat was oppressive, even for the south of Texas so close to the border. Tia, Tio and I were outside in the shade, catching the breeze and enjoying time together. We had nowhere to go, nothing to do. It was one of those rare moments when you really get to savor time together. How many times can we say that happens in our harried, hectic modern lives?

It was a beautiful sunny day, with few clouds in the sky. There was no one around for miles. All the other houses were too far in the distance to be seen. It occurred to me that this could have been any century. There was no humming of modern appliances, no planes overhead, not even one car on the rural road at that moment and from our vantage point, not even a road in sight. We could have been living in another period. It was one of those instances where time seems to stand still. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for the moment, for the quiet time with my favorite aunt and uncle and for the beautiful voice with which I was gifted. All I could do was sing.

I began to sing a gorgeous 15th century Spanish song I knew. Los Pelegrinitos is a song about two pilgrims who are cousins who wish to marry, but have to travel to the pope to ask permission to do so. It is told in story form from a mother to her daughter. It is a dear song to me because it illustrates the complexities of the period, which happen to be an integral part of my family’s heritage.

At that time, in the 1400’s, the Jews were kicked out of Spain or forced to convert. Many Spanish Jews kept their practices in secret. Often they married within the family to keep the faith. In Judaism, it is allowed for first cousins to marry. So I have always conjectured this story to be about Jewish cousins trying to marry.

The contents of the song are not that important. What was more significant was the intention behind the singing. In that moment, I was singing from an open heart with pure love for my family, my surroundings, for the moment and for the gratitude of my God given instrument.

As I sang, “Sombrerito de hule lleva el mozuelo,” I heard my aunt and uncle conversing among themselves in Spanish, “What are they doing coming now? They never come now.” I continued “y la pelegrinita, Mamita, de terciopelo, nina bonita, de terciopelo, nina.” I opened my eyes to see some brown specks coming towards us. Tia and Tio were speaking in surprised tones, but I was too busy feeling the song and the love to hear all they were saying. I kept my eyes on the brown specks as they quickly came our way.

“Al pasar por el Puente de la Victoria…tropezo la madrina, Mamita,” I began to realize the brown specks were cows, all except for one. “Callo la novia, nina bonita, callo la novia, nina.”

The cows were led by a bull. George was a full grown, huge picture of potent power. He was a beautiful chocolate brown with hints of Indian red. He was so massive all his parts dragged on the ground, his cojones, his polla, all of it. It was a wonder he could move so quickly. I continued singing while being in awe of this gorgeous symbol of earthiness and masculinity. “Le ha preguntado el Papa que se han pecado…”

Tia and Tio were still wondering what George was up to. George came as closely as he could to me. “El le dice que un beso mamita.” At this point I was very grateful for the thin barbed wire fence between us, which, I hadn’t noticed before. “Que le habia dado, nina bonita, que la habia dado, nina.”

George came all the way up to the fence, not more than 15 feet directly in front of me. “Las campanas de Roma ya repicaron…” He tilted his head and lifted his left ear up as high as it could go, then his face melted. I swear I could hear him sigh. “Porque los pelegrinos, Mamita, ya se casaron, nina bonita.”

I’ve seen very few bulls in my life and never before and never since have I seen one this size, but I have never heard of a bull swooning. That is what George did. He swooned just as I finished singing the last verse, “Ya se casaron, nina.”

My aunt and uncle were chuckling to realize that George had run all this way with the cows behind him so he could hear my voice and be near me.

I have experienced many instances of charming animals since, but my first time was with George and he will always hold a special place in my heart. I felt extremely honored that such a powerful magnificent creature would pay me such a compliment as George did that day.

The symbol of the bull represents power, being grounded, fertility, the virile masculine that gets things done. It is a wonderful reminder of who I am. On days when I start to feel or say, “I can’t,” I remember George’s response to me. Then I remember my true power. I have the ability to charm bulls. There is nothing I cannot do.

 

Los Pelegrinitos (The Young Pilgrims)

Following is an English translation of Elisheva’s song to the bull as arranged by the poet Federico Garcia Lorca

 

To Rome they’re walking two pilgrims

for the Pope to wed them mamma

’cause they’re cousins pretty baby, ’cause they’re cousins baby

 

A little felt hat, he’s wearing the lad

and the pilgrim girl mamma,

a velvet one pretty baby, a velvet one baby

 

When they were crossing the bridge of Victoria

the bridesmaid stumbled mamma

the bride fell down pretty baby, the bride fell down baby

 

They arrived in the Palace,walked upstairs

and in the Pope’s hall mamma

they were brought down pretty baby, they were brought down baby

 

The Pope asked them, what are their names

he says it’s Pedro mamma

and she says it’s Ana pretty baby, and she says it’s Ana baby

 

The Pope asked them, what is their age

she says it’s fifteen mamma

and he seventeen baby

 

The Pope asks them where do they come from

she says from Cabra mamma

and he from Antequera pretty baby, and he from Antequera baby

 

The Pope asks them whether they have sinned

he says just one kiss mamma

that he had given her pretty baby, that he had given her baby

 

And the pilgrim girl who is shy

her face has turned mamma

into a rose pretty baby, into a rose baby

 

And the Pope responded from his quarters:

I wish I was pilgrim mamma

to do the same! pretty baby, to do the same! baby

 

The bells of Rome are pealing now

because the pilgrims mamma

are married now pretty baby, are married now baby

Do You Need Permission to Dance?P609013011-300x224

The town I live in has a Farmer’s Market on Thursday nights. You know the kind. The street gets cordoned off and people walk around drinking wine or eating popcorn with their kids. Local farmers sell greens that still smell like the earth. You can get free range rotisserie chicken, homemade breads and pies, or even original artwork.

Unfortunately for me, dogs are not allowed. I took my dog after checking the town website to see if there was any mention of the banning of dogs. None whatsoever. Once I reached the event with dog in tow, there were signs glaring at me everywhere that read, “No Dogs Allowed at Farmer’s Market!”

Luckily I had my trusty roommate with me and together we negotiated the pooch unfriendly place. It wasn’t that big a deal. I stood by the sidelines as he approached a vendor to take a look at the tamales. People came by to pet Captain, my fluffy furry friend who was newly groomed. After a family of dog lovers moved on, I noticed her.

She wore shorts and a tee shirt. She was probably between eight and twelve years old and there she was, about fifty feet away, standing behind a booth, probably helping her parents support their favorite non-profit. This young lady stood staring at me while people passed by and a live band played Beatles songs in the nearby park. In fact, the foursome wore straight haired wigs, straight slacks and grey sweaters reminiscent of the ones the original Fab Four wore on the Ed Sullivan show. Fifty years later these classics were pulling in people of all ages.

But, why was this girl staring at me? I returned her intense gaze and observed a little twitch here and a twitch there in time to the rhythm. “Well she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean…” I knew that look. This little girl wanted to dance. But why wasn’t she letting herself move? My mind wanted to make up a story about why someone so young would be so inhibited. This was not a moment to think. Precious time was wasting while this young one stoodH-1EfW-BfBDQ2pYFL8De8TefG3N9USSlpQtQjDjAtzY unexpressed. I had to start dancing immediately and show her how to let go.

Most people say, “Dance as if no one is watching.”  Why would I care if someone was watching? I always say, “Dance as if someone is watching and they’ve forgotten how to dance and you need to show them how it’s done!” I know it doesn’t roll off the tongue like the original quote, but it makes a lot more sense to me.

You better believe I shook it good for my young friend. I kept her gaze as I jerked back and forth and sang too! Her eyes instantly grew big with delight as she squealed and started jumping up and down before settling into the rhythm. Then I noticed the little sister next to her. Once she saw Big Sister getting down, Little Sister started in on the fun too! By the time I left, they were oblivious to me and continued dancing to the next song, and the next song…

I’m happy to lend my fire to get things started. Call me a catalyst. Call me Chief Joy Officer. I’ll give you permission to sing or dance or just let go and be yourself. Do you need permission?

What Do Monks, Monkeys and a Mountain Have to Do With Peace?IMG_0034

The mountain called Arunachala is known as one of the most sacred places in India. India is a country with many deities, each holding its own unique energy, and people tap into that energy in order to embody it.

The three main gods in India are Brahma, the CreatorVishnu, the Preserver and Shiva, the Transformer. The story goes that there was a disagreement about who was the mightiest deity. Shiva won. The people pleaded with Shiva to reveal himself in physical form so they could know him better. The story ends with Shiva turning himself into the mountain known as Arunachala.

IMG_0272If you sit still for long enough before the mountain, beliefs you didn’t know you had surface for examination. At least that’s what happened to me.  That reflective state is what comes about for people for whom I have drummed the I Ching symbol for Mountain. The stillness of the mountain, whether in the actual form or drumming of it, brings about contemplation.

I sat at the base of the sacred mountain of Arunachala for three blessed weeks, soaking in the energy and letting old beliefs and habits fall away. The only time I’ve ever felt an area so alive with transformational energy was when I had the privilege of living in the holy city of Jerusalem for an entire year.

Arunachala is special and has been home to many monks and monkeys. Ramana Maharshi, the sage who lived on the mountain for 54 years said one can’t help but become enlightened there. I took advantage of the sacredness of the mountain.

The day before I left, I awoke before sunrise and with the help of a couple of friends, climbed partway up the mountain. I sat alone with the sounds of nature waking up. Birds were singing their melodies, and bees buzzed as the sun started to sneak up over the horizon. Before the droning of motorized vehicles began, I grounded my energy in the mountain and tuned into the vibration of each of the eight elements of the I Ching. There, on the side of the mountain, I recorded a meditation for each element, with the sounds of nature as background landscape.IMG_0059

The presence of the mountain could be felt in each recording, however, most had too much interference noise to keep. The only recording clear enough to stay exactly as it had been made was Fire, which is my element. Fire is transformative. Shiva is Fire. It made sense that the only meditation to remain would be the element of Fire. Another story from the Indian scriptures was that Shiva was a burning pillar of fire. He burned so brightly that he threatened to wipe out all mankind. Shakti, the feminine energy, saved the world by impaling herself onto Shiva and cooling his flames.

The other elements; Mountain, Earth, Wind, Water, Thunder, Lake and Heaven, were transcribed word for word, along with Peace and Prosperity, and re-recorded in a quieter studio away from the sounds of monks and monkeys. These meditations are available on my app, Be Tao Now ~ I Ching Drumming for Triumphant Living! including a free Peace meditation.

The peace of Arunachala has stayed with me and I tap into it as a daily discipline, especially drumming the I Ching pattern for peace.  Peace is in the meditations. Peace is in the drumming. Peace is within me and I want to share that with you.

 

Slide4If war is destructive, peace is creative. We tend to think of peace as a passive thing, an absence of strife. What if peace were not passive? Everything has its opposite. Peace/War. Love/Hatred. Resistance/Acceptance. Action/Inaction. Stillness/Motion.

In the I Ching, Peace is seen as the balance of Yin and Yan, the balance of feminine and masculine energies, the balance of being and doing.

Think about how things come into being.

A thought about something emerges, then a feeling follows. If we like how we feel about that idea, we move forward on it. Thought and feeling come together and it is creative. Masculine and feminine come together and create matter. That’s how babies are born.

We have the power of creation in our bodies and in our lives. What if Peace was a focus in your life? What would you create with it? How would your world look different? If enough of us are actively involved in our own inner Peace, we will see Peace manifest in our lives and in the world.

First we have to meet the war within ourselves with Peace. Then we combine action with Peace and it turns to Joy.

The other night I went to sleep listening to the I Ching drumming pattern for Peace. I awoke in a peaceful, but highly excited state with a flood of ideas pouring through me. I couldn’t wait to write them down so I could share them with the world. Once I moved on those ideas that emerged from Peace, I was in a powerfully joyful state. Creativity moved through me urging me to do something with it.

Peace is creative. Here’s a challenge for you. Try going to sleep with the drumming pattern for Peace. See what creativity you wake up with.

How can you get more peace in your life?

1. Drum the I Ching pattern for Peace. Stay tuned for my “How To” video.

2. Listen to the I Ching drumming pattern for Peace on my app, Be Tao Now.

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Peace is creative. How will you use it for good?