Shine the Divine:

Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice

When we see through our hearts, we recognize that every single one of us is infused with creativity. Divine Sparks are embedded in everyone and everything. It's up to us to be courageous, to look and listen deeply, to find the sparks, gather and release them back into the universe, transformed into something new. Join me as we wake up to the sacred-ordinary blessings waiting to greet us each and every day.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy To Dwell in this Moment: Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg

I am so delighted this morning to welcome yet another of my "official" teachers. Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg. Yes another IJS teacher. Sheila taught me, and continues to teach me how to meditate in the most gentle, generous possible way. She taught me about mindfulness meditation, how to pay attention and compassionately be present to the busyness of my mind, the ups and downs of my emotions and the  continually changing sensations in my body. She introduced me to chesed meditation (metta/lovingkindness). These practices continue to sustain me daily...all day long some days! In essence, chesed/metta is a way of asking God for blessing; first for one's own well being and then the circle of lovingkindness expands like a drop in the peaceful waters of Universal Compassion. The ripple grows as the blessing is extended toward a benefactor/teacher, someone dear like a family member, then other family members and  close friends, acquaintances, people who you may not know well but connect with on a regular basis (like your mail carrier or clerks in the supermarket), a person who you have difficulty with, and eventually all beings on earth.

But Sheila has been so much more than a benevolent mentor. I have always felt comfortable writing to her and asking for advice, staying connected, and I feel that because of this we have developed a sweet, respectful kind of friendship. Sheila is part of my spiritual support system, writing to me frequently to check in and let me know that she is ever present when I need her wisdom. She was this way before my illness intensified over the past two years, but is in even more so now. I truly feel blessed to know this brilliant shining soul and to be guided by her on my own spiritual journey.

When Sheila's book Surprisingly Happy: An A-Typical Religious Memoir  was published last February, I promised to interview her, but then we were in Bat Mitzvah mode for Rosie and summer came and I got sicker again and well, here we are many months later. I loved this book because it opened me to whole other side of my teacher that I knew nothing about. I knew Sheila was gentle and generous and kind, I knew she had a great sense of humor and tremendous capacity for joy and awe for creation. I knew she was an activist working toward peace and justice in the world. What I did not know was what a courageous woman she is. 

Her memoir details her personal journey growing up as a child in NY with a sense of longing and loss for her brother who died before she was born; a painful family secret that was never talked about, but that she discovered on her own. She tells of her deep connection to Judaism from a tender age and the seeds that were planted that would someday grow into a rabbi. She writes about her college years and travels with her first husband and their  marriage that eventually did not work out.  Sheila bravely shares her struggles with addiction in the midst of raising two remarkable kids, essentially on her own, while going back to school in Philadelphia at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College to become a rabbi.  She details her healing process aided along by insight meditation. Eventually Sheila shares the blessing of finding true love in her wonderful husband Maynard and her growing family with the birth of her first grandchild. She includes poetry and prayers of her own that express her awe for life, for living, for God's Presence. This is such a slim summary, believe me, you want to pick up her book and read it on your own, because you will find yourself in the pages too. While Sheila's story is unique to her life, the underlying search for God and meaning and how to be the best human possible in the circumstances she was born to untangle and reweave, is one in which each of us can find familiar threads that connect to our own lived experiences.
Below you will find a prayer-poem, a written meditation and a link to an explanation of what the development of mindfulness as a spiritual practice means. Please welcome my very special guest today, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg Director of Outreach at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Spiritual Director and Author of:

 click on the book to purchase it through Amazon



Ashrei Yoshvei Veytecha

Just to take our seat and enter fully into this moment is to recognize that we are part of something so much greater than ourselves.

Happy is one who sits in Your house.

Ashrei Yoshvei VetechaWe relax into this moment remembering that we do not possess this house: this moment, this body, this world. And that makes it all the more precious.

In the simplicity of returning again and again to this breath, this sensation, this sound, we are practicing  happiness.

The happiness of peace and contentment,

The happiness of feeling connected,

The happiness of greeting the sun in the morning or just taking another breath,

The happiness of knowing that this bad mood will pass and this harsh thought has no substance,

The  happiness of letting go of ill will for this moment,

The happiness of allowing desire to come to its natural end in the mind,

The happiness of growing still,

The happiness of seeing life and death in everything and not being afraid.

Is this political? Well, I think it is.

This happiness doesn’t hurt people we do not know.

This happiness doesn’t tell us to be ashamed of growing old.

This happiness doesn’t tell us we aren’t okay but can fix that if we try hard enough.

This happiness doesn’t attract a lot of buyers and sellers.

It calls for careful cultivation like a field of precious jewels.

Moment after moment.

It calls for dedication and community and willingness and faith.

It calls upon wisdom and courage.

It is itself a child of goodness.

So simple.

So huge.

But it is the only happiness there is.

Psalm 150

The last line of the last psalm (kol haneshama t’halel yah) brings so much together.

Every breath is a prayer. All life offers praise.

Remember: It is written: “Vayipach b’apav nishmat chayyim.”

“God blew into the nostrils of the human being the breath of life.”

Imagine every breath a prayer.

Imagine every breath a shining thread connecting us to all life.

Become aware of the next out breath.

Just allow yourself to feel the texture of the breath. For the full exhalation.

Allow your awareness to float on the sensations of breath like a feather floating on a cloud.


You are breathing out the breath of life. God’s breath. The breath of the world. The breath of Yah.

This doesn’t require any effort on your part. It is a gift and a blessing.


Now, become aware of your next in breath.

There is no need to seek it or pull it toward you. Just allow it to arise, however it presents itself to you. Open to the full inhalation. Rest your awareness on this breath as softly as a feather rests on a cloud.


You are breathing in the breath of life. God’s breath. The breath of the world. The breath of Yah.

This doesn’t require any effort on your part. It is a gift and a blessing.

All life offers praise.

All Life offers  Thaksgiving.


click the link below to find a podcast from Sheila describing


May you be blessed with chesed/kindness.

May you be blessed with rachamim/compassion.

May you be blessed with simcha/joy.

May you be blessed with shalom/peace.

May it be so for you, for me, for all beings.


Although I am in the background this month and not doing much visiting in blogland, I read every comment you send and am so thrilled to know how much you all are appreciating the beautiful guest posts from my friends/teachers. Every day is one in which to cultivate gratitude and reading about other peoples experiences and thoughts helps us to look at our own lives and the small blessings that are unfolding, even in this moment now. I hope more of you will send me a sentence or two about what you are grateful for today so I can add your words to the gratitude quilt. Send it to my email address

I have an MRI scheduled for this evening to try and figure out what is making me fall down so much.

gentle steps, 

(my new walker and I are learning all about them in a very intimate way!)



  1. Thank you for this beautiful post and the prayer-poem is wonderful...a great way to be mindful and fully present. Thank you.

    Laura, I hope the MRI yeilds the answers for you. I hate to think of you falling down.

  2. Please check in with any news if you can.

    and this post was so wonderful.. but I had to keep popping in to take it in in bits. thank you

  3. I loved this. Thank you, from my heart.

  4. Mindful meditation is essential to human life. Love this! Plus, Sheila is SUCH a great name! :o)


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