Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Another day passed

Where do the days go? I have an empathy with this character...

After a hard day and a long conversation with my sister, I have realised how little I have been living over the past two years. I took redundancy to change my life for the better, but have somehow found a life of solitude and detachment. Life is a game. It's about time I realised that I deserve a little bit of fun. A lot of fun, in fact. And Love. Lots of Love.

All I need is one change to start the ball rolling. And whilst I am looking I will continue to turn to YouTube to introduce a bit of giggling in to my life...

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Proof of the Pudding

A friend invited me to stay at her house for Yom Kippur. It was the strangest sleep-over I have had.

At 4pm on Sunday I ate the biggest plate of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots and green beans. I ate it so fast that before I could gauge whether or not I was actually full, I followed up with an individual sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Just in case.

Twenty minutes later, my stomach registered that not only was it full, but it was painfully full. I wouldn't want to eat for a week, surely? I travelled down to London wearing a fixed grimace and my loosest jeans which an hour earlier had been heading south every five minutes, but now were cutting a rather solid stomach firmly in two. I compounded the pain by drinking as much water as I could carry on the journey down.

Many people at the centre held the same "please don't nudge me, I might explode" expression, all having spent the previous 24 hours on a food-a-thon in preparation for the fast.

It was then explained that over the course of the next 25 hours, we would be taking in 5 spiritual meals which would replace our need for any physical sustenance. The first two 'meals' took place on Sunday night, and the session ended at 9pm. There were several blessings and lots of singing and jumping around - something which would normally draw people to the water fountain in droves. But everyone abstained.

It was only when we were about to leave that I noticed that most of the women were wearing no makeup, and then learned from my friend the rest of the rules of fasting: No contact with water, no adorning the body with oils and lotions for the duration of the fast - something that my overnight buddy was following to the letter. This includes no brushing of teeth, no morning shower, no underarm deodorant, no makeup and only washing the fingertips after going to the loo.

This made for the oddest overnight stay in the world. My friend did not have to worry what I ate for breakfast, or whether I drank tea or coffee or a different milk, and didn't even have to provide a towel. Getting up in the morning on the second day was a cinch - get up, brush hair, put on clothes, leave house. I'd spent 20 minutes packing my bag making sure that I had remembered everything - I don't think I've ever packed a bag and not needed anything except a spare pair of knickers and a new top. Any fears of bad breath or body odour were countered by the knowledge that I wouldn't be alone and there was a noticeable absence of hugging and kissing probably to take this into consideration. Or was that just me?

Day Two of Yom Kippur was a trial of patience. Prayers started at 9am and continued solidly until 2pm. Most of the time we stood, each breathing a sigh of relief when we were asked to 'be seated to draw the energy and then groaning when asked almost immediately to stand for the next prayer.

At 2pm we were released on to the streets of London, and my friend and one other went for a nap in Green Park in the sun, remarkably unaffected by the smells from the multitude of cafes that we passed along the way.

At 5pm we returned for the final two meals, checking our watches continuously. Not long to go now. More standing. More blessings. More random songs. My patience was starting to wear thin - but I still wasn't hungry. My mouth had been like the bottom of a bird cage for the entire day after not brushing my teeth and I longed for a mouthful of water - but the sensation of thirst was consistent and surprisingly bearable. And unlike my previous fast, my stomach had tried a poor attempt at a rumble at 10:30 and then had been silent for the rest of the day.

At 7:20 we finished with the Blowing of the Shofar, to knock away any negative aspect of ourselves that we had not been able to correct. Objectively, it was the blowing of a ram's horn. Spiritually, it touched the parts that other sounds could not reach - a spiritual Heineken, if you like.

At 7:36, after two extended rounds of songs, the women were allowed to break their fast, and there was a mass stampede to the table outside where tea, coffee and biscuits were waiting. Knowing that I had a 90 minute journey home, I grabbed a single glass of water and left the other women to the 'bun fight'. I still wasn't hungry.

I bought a bottle of water on the train and reheated some leftovers from Sunday for my dinner - 28+ hours without food and if I'd had to go to bed without eating, I could have done. How very strange.

I've never been much of a breakfast person, sometimes waiting until midday or slightly later to eat, but generally I fill the gap with multiple cups of tea, and my stomach always rumbles loudly in protest when I don't eat. (In fact, I can blame my rumbling stomach on failing my Biology 'A' level - my stomach rumbled so loudly throughout the entire third paper that I was aware of the invigilator looking away to avoid fits of giggles - humiliating and a tad distracting).

Before Yom Kippur, the thought of '5 spiritual meals' being enough to stave off hunger seemed like a bit of a myth.
I stand corrected. Now I have to consider what else I have dismissed as potential mumbo-jumbo just because I couldn't see it or feel it.

The proof of the pudding... as they say....

As an aside, here is one example of blowing the Shofar. This DIDN'T happen last night, but would have been so funny if it had...

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Water(2) and Fast(2) and Awake!

Fast (1)
So, we are nearly at Yom Kippur, the first fast of the year. The day of Yom Kippur is the only day of the year where the 'Opponent' ceases to exist - where there is no negative energy at all. Usually where holidays are concerned (including the weekly Shabbat), extra spiritual energy is gained by 'sealing the connection' with food.

With Yom Kippur, extra connection is made by not eating - by pushing aside the needs of the physical and obtaining sustenance for our soul. So from tomorrow night at sunset (6:41) there will be no food or drink consumed for 25 hours.

If Yom Kippur was the day after Rosh Hashanah, I would be grateful for the opportunity not to eat for an entire day. 3 days of buffet breakfasts and 3-course lunches and dinners tend to have that effect. But after a week of eating sensibly this might be a slight challenge - my stomach is rumbling already.

So I've decided that the best course of action is to start eating from sunrise tomorrow morning, and not stop until sunset. I am going to eat the biggest breakfast, then cook a roast dinner (enough for two) and then take snacks on the train. Clothes with an elasticated waist are in order - either that or a bathrobe. I'm not proud.

I went shopping today, to buy ingredients for tomorrow's blow out feast. At the checkout, the same question is asked: "Do you need any help with your packing?" I always answer "No, thanks" at which point the cashier starts running items past the bar-code at an unnecessary rate of knots. I used to try to keep up, but now I pack at my own pace and avoid eye contact with the cashier until I am ready to pay. What I learned was that the stores have a throughput rate that the cashiers must meet or exceed to keep their jobs. Yes, it helps to have competent cashiers, but is it only me who thinks there should be a rate that the cashiers should not exceed so that customers actually have a chance to pack their shopping without getting dirty looks or deep sighs? Customer service is what is best for the customer - I wonder if any of the management knows what that means.

The other minor irritation is when the cashier asks "Please can you enter your pin?" two seconds before the card reader displays "ENTER PIN". Hmmph. Just sayin'

The push tap on the last sink on the right hand side of the Harvey Centre (in Harlow) women's loos deserves a prize. I was expecting scorching hot, it was the perfect temperature. I was expecting a two-second burst of Niagara Falls (enough to rinse hands, and soak sleeves, T-shirt and jeans), but no, it was perfect. Life is full of pleasant little surprises, if only we know where to look.

The Pilot Light on my boiler has gone out. I discovered this when I tried to take a shower this morning and no hot water came through. I was bent over the bath for a very long time, refusing to believe that this was as good as it was going to get. I then took a lukewarm shower.

I tried to restart the boiler but it looks as though the ignition has gone. There is nothing - zip, zilch, nada - going on in the click-click-click department. "Well that's no problem" I hear you say "just flick on the immersion". I've tried that already. In fact, I stared at every surface inside my airing cupboard for a full ten minutes before remembering.... I don't have an immersion heater.

***update*** whilst typing the above I remembered that when staring in to the airing cupboard, I saw a plug hanging down behind the water tank. A rather dusty, random looking plug, but a plug all the same. So it has only taken 10 hours for my sharp super-sleuth senses to register than I do actually have an immersion heater, just not a socket inside the airing cupboard. I removed the fluff and have plugged it in to the socket outside the bathroom door. There were no loud bangs or puffs of smoke, just a scary hissing sound. Fingers crossed that I might get a hot bath before the house blows up.... ****

I slept through a full hour of my radio alarm this morning, waking up just in time to miss shabbat. If I wasn't allergic, I'd get a cat....:

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Happy New Year 5770!

After an exhausting month of repenting and preparatory 'connections' (including an all night study) I felt less than ready for Rosh Hashanah. In fact, after 10 days of flu-like symptoms, I felt pretty much exhausted.

The excitement at the Kabbalah centre was palpable - the words 'Are you going??' were included in every conversation weeks before the event and a positive response was met with elation. As for me, I was curious but cautious. I have bungee jumped and rock climbed and land yachted and sailed and skied and scuba dived. It takes a lot to get me excited.

In truth, the trip was an emotional roller-coaster. I could recant the whole event which would probably take a few days to read... but decided that the Highs and Lows would suffice.

High: Buying an extra half hour of (sleep) time by not ringing the bank to tell them I was travelling to the US the following day. Ah, it would be fine. Never had a problem before.
Low: Arriving in New York with no dollars, having two cards rejected by a cashpoint in JFK airport, then realising that I did not have my bank's phone number to hand.
High: Receiving a phone call from my credit card company under suspicion of being a thief who had both stolen my credit card AND my mobile phone (I just love the dead-pan security questions) and then having my credit card unblocked for use in the US.

High: Attending the Cancelling of the Vows connection - which destroys any negative energy I created by not keeping my promises. Yippee!
Low: Feeling really overwhelmed by the presence of 3000 people and not having a close friend to hand. Really feeling the absence of my sister who had planned to be there.

Low: Sitting through hour upon hour of connections and lectures on Friday night and not feeling like I was taking anything in, and hence would not gain anything from being there. Feeling totally preoccupied with where I was going to stay, having not properly sorted my accommodation.

Low: Dinner at 10:30pm (but my body clock said 3:30 am) which was preceded by the blessing and consumption of ten different types of food, which in turn was preceded by the Washing of the Hands and Hamotzi blessings. There were 2500 people and 8 Hamotzi/Washing stations. This is where I start to lose patience.

High: Being offered a room share by a really lovely, bubbly Aries.

High: Joining in with the song and dance at the end of the meal.
Low: Wondering whether the force of 2000 people jumping on the ballroom floor might have headline consequences. I have never felt a solid floor ripple like that before. I trusted that the Light would never allow the entire Berg family to be wiped out in one go.

Low: Going to bed at 1am feeling uncomfortably bloated and jet-lagged.
High: Waking up at 3:30, 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 with the sneaking and subsequently confirmed suspicion that I had developed the ability to shit through the eye of a needle. No longer feeling uncomfortably bloated.

Low: All Day Saturday. The connections went on and on. I was reduced to nibbling bread and drinking water for fear of losing control of my bowels and this left me feeling a tad weak. The jet lag started to kick in and my thoughts were that I should never booked Rosh Hashanah. Every time the crowd broke in to spontaneous song, I wanted to scream. Did these people have no concept of time? Don't they know that lunch was meant to be an hour ago? Oh not another bloody song. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, sing a tuneless prayer, sit down, try to get your consciousness in the right place otherwise it won't bloody work. What on earth have I got myself dragged in to? It was an effort to think positive in any way, shape or form.

High: Chatting to several people at dinner and discovering that they had felt the same way too. Understanding that as the Day of Judgement goes, this is par for the course.

High: Waking up on Sunday morning feeling incredibly positive for no apparent reason whatsoever. Fully participating in the 5 hour long connection, standing up, sitting down, concentrating as best I could, not thinking about lunch for a second and standing on a chair for half an hour, clapping and singing throughout a spontaneous sing-song, wishing it would never end. The difference was incredible.

High: Singing 'Salaam' (my favourite, favourite song) with 3000 people at the end of the connection.

High: Bursting spontaneously in to 'Salaam' with ten other people in a bubble lift, all singing at the tops of our voices and in harmony.
'Salaam' means 'Peace' and goes something like this... very catchy.

The whole weekend was strange from start to finish. From the most hideous darkness to the most astonishing Light - neither of which I felt I could control.

As for whether the connection has made any difference to my life, let's just wait and see. All I know is that usually when I fly home from the US I have jet lag for days, and this time there is nothing. So if I'm starting as I mean to go on, that's a good sign...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Now they are just giving it away

You may remember that a short while back I was offered the sum of $19million - half of the estate of an oil magnate with my surname who had unfortunately died in a car accident wiping out all members of his immediate family.

I have received comments against this blog post from other far flung relatives of mine (obviously we all have to be related otherwise why would they be contacted?) who have googled the solicitor's name and address.

Today I received another email offering me the sum of $35.7 million left by a Diamond Industrialist called Omar Bin Abd Al-Aziz.

I am confused. Omar Bin Abd Al-Aziz was an Umayyed Caliph according to Wikipedia, who ruled from 717 to 720 AD. Why did it take so long for his request to reach this 'ex-Attourney'? This is certainly a slow process - it's taken nearly 1200 years. And Wikipedia mentions nothing about diamonds either. Although I am sure being a Caliph, he probably had some.

One thing I do know - my date of birth is certainly NOT 16 Sep 2009.... and even if it was, I still wouldn't have fallen for this awful mix up of a letter.. see below.

Robert Jean
> 3 Oxford St
> Whitstable, CT5 1DB
> Your Kind Attention
> I have just discovered your email contact on my email review this morning and do wish to engage your expertize in a discrete investment initiative.
> I'm Robert Jean a retired Attorney and Real Estate Practitioner currently sequestered here in uk.... i'm in my late 60's. Few weeks back, European Bank Authorities notified me via a confidential letter, of a long awaited permission & approval to finally access private funds of amou nt - US$35.7M lodged in an Asset Management Company account(earlier denied access) under the Instruction of the Bank which will be disclosed to you upon your response. Quoted fund belongs to my late client Omar bin Abd al-Aziz... notable high-networth raw Diamond industrialist from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
> Omar's last wish before his demise was to invest these funds substantially in Real Estate development in Las Vegas & Florida... including purchase of private islands for sale in the Caribbean . Under mutually beneficial terms with you, I’m prepared to authorize Bank to release the US$35.7m into your lawful custody for long term investment, moreso if you're duly recognised and actively involved in real estate through International Living & Sovereign Society.
> On acceptance and receipt of your response, you’ll be directly linked with the Asset Management Company, who’ll approve and authorize release of the investment funds to you.
> I await your response.
> Cordially,
> Robert Jean H.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Fairy Elephants

My previous neighbours were a quiet couple and before they had a baby it was hard to tell whether or not they were home. Once the little girl arrived, the sound of wailing often drifted through the walls from various directions depending on which room she was in. Like all Diva's-In-The-Making, she practiced her plaintive cries at full volume throughout the day and night.

It didn't bother me in the slightest. Her parents often used to apologise profusely for the noise that she made, but since my nephews were born I developed the ability to allow the sound of a baby's cry to pass straight through me without so much as a nudge on my flinch-ometer. I'm not sure how that happened.

Then the couple next door moved out and for several months the house was empty. During that time I grew quite used to having no neighbours - the main benefit of which was a total lack of concern for the noise I wished to create at any time of the day or night. I no longer grabbed the TV remote every time the adverts blasted out their message at twice the normal volume of the program I was watching. If I wanted to dance like a mad thing at one in the morning, I did. And my alarm clock was set to a blaring volume that I thought I couldn't possibly sleep through (but bizarrely still do).

The house then went up for sale a second time and once again I waited for the new arrivals, who didn't arrive. Several weeks and a guilt-inducing hedge trim later, a 'To Let' sign was put up in the garden and I prepared myself for the arrival of a removal van, planning to leap in to the front garden with a freshly brewed pot of tea and some nice biscuits to welcome my new neighbours.

And now mysteriously the house is occupied - but I'm not really sure who by, how or when. There was no removal van (which is just as well because I ate the biscuits). For a good week or so after hearing the first signs of life there was no furniture either. In fact, the only time I ever hear them is at weekends.

Last weekend there was a very loud baby constantly crying. This weekend there are signs of life but no baby (where did that baby go?) I occasionally hear the raised voices of the parents when I am in the shower (the bathroom wall seems to be the thinnest) although I can never quite hear what they are saying, and sometimes I hear the back door being locked or unlocked as they surreptitiously enter or leave.

Even then I might consider myself to be imagining their existence, were it not for the sound of their children running up and down the stairs from dawn until dusk. I say children, because I assume that a single child would have little reason to hurtle from floor to floor every hour of the day seemingly dragging a sack of bricks behind them.

So now "The Dog Whisperer" sounds like: You need to develop a calm, assertive *giggle-giggle*thump-thump-thump-thump *giggle* with defined rules, boundaries and thump-thump-clunk-thump I rehabilitate dogs, I train thump-thump-THUMP-CLUNK-THUMP.

Supernanny sounds remarkably similar.

Last night I caught myself looking at the walls as if in disgust. How intolerable.

And then a distant memory of my mum screaming "FOR GOODNESS SAKES! YOU SOUND LIKE A BUNCH OF FAIRY ELEPHANTS JUMPING AROUND UP THERE!!!" popped in to my head.

Oh, so that's who has moved in next door. Now all I have to do is re-adjust my flinch-ometer. At weekends.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Cosmic Tennis.

The weeks approaching Rosh Hashanah continue to get tough. The closer you get to the Day of Judgement, the more challenges pop out of the woodwork.

The preparation for Rosh Hashanah involves identifying your desires for the next year - what do you want to see in your life? And when you have identified what you want, what do you need to change about yourself to get there? What kind of negative traits do you have that will stop you from receiving that future vision? Common sense, really.

So many things have cropped up in the past week that I have a list as long as my arm of the things I need to change. Laziness and procrastination are just the start. Enjoying my own company and control of my own surroundings are another (which - let's face it - I need to overcome if I ever want to meet my soul mate and lose possession of the full length of the couch AND the TV remote).

Another issue for me is spontaneity. I'm not keen on surprises. I like to be prepared. But this is something I had not given much thought for a while, until today.

My teacher gave the lecture at Shabbat. Halfway through the lecture I stopped to think about public speaking and my own desire to speak to ever increasing audiences. I just can't imagine it. It's part of the future me that I cannot imagine being the 'Here and Now' me. And here is my teacher, explaining the energy of the week engaging an audience of 150 people, with such competence, knowledge and an incredible amount of humour and for a second I was questioning whether I was going in to the right line of business. I wondered whether I could stand up in front of the room and give an announcement.

What is more, the lecture was all about knowing that our nature never stops bringing us challenges - we can never sit back and say 'okay, that's it, I'm a nice person now - the rest of my days will be spent lying on the beach drinking Pina Colada'. If we are an angry person, we will never fully remove our anger. What we can aim for is bringing our angry reactions down from two days to two hours - short of a complete personality transplant, the challenges will never disappear.

My teacher likened it to a game of tennis - the energy takes place when the racquet hits the ball. And the balls keep coming. If we put the ball in our pocket and walk away, there is no opportunity to draw the Light. Or in other words, we need to face our challenges in order to receive the blessing. We need to keep returning the ball.

Half an hour later, I spotted one of my friends across the room and after waving and smiling, she mouthed "You're going to do the announcement for the Business Gym today"

WHAT?!?! My Ego was instantly affronted. I'm not going to do it. If she wanted me to do it, then she should have given me a chance to prepare something. Why didn't she tell me yesterday? I could have put something together and practised. I can't just be expected to jump up in front of 150 people without knowing what I am going to say. I mean, I don't mind speaking in front of people.. but only when I know what I am saying. I'll tell her No. She can't make me.

After ten minutes of trying every excuse in the book, I had a sudden image of a ball hitting a racquet. I knew what I needed to do - I hate being unprepared.. and here is a chance to break it. So I said Yes. Great, my friend said, the Business Gym is the last on the list of announcements.

They called me up first.

And what can I say - it went fine. More than fine, in fact. It felt good. It felt very natural - as though I had found my place. I felt a rush of adrenaline and the right words just came pouring out in the right order. The buzz afterwards was simply Divine.

So in the great tennis match between Light and Ego, the score stands at 15-Love. But no time for celebrating, I've got the rest of the match to play...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Funny, that.

I was on the train back from Hertford today, when two teenagers wandered through the carriage and then plonked themselves aggressively on the seat behind me. They appeared to be in the throes of a rebellious phase, carrying an energy and attitude that said "don't mess wiv me - I'm 'ard". So I didn't.

Five minutes later when the train started moving, one of them walked over and said "Excuse me, is it okay if I open a window?" the politeness of which kind of took me by surprise. "Yes, that's fine" I replied, at which point he opened the window, sat back down and then rolled and lit a cigarette which they smoked between them, peppering their conversation with enough expletives to make sure that it was known that they were indeed truly 'ard as nails.

But how funny that they should ask me if it was okay to open the window, letting in fresh air, but not ask me if I minded them smoking? Oo I bet their Mums would go spare. Where are their manners!

I think they might need a little more practice at being rebels - bless.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

This and That

Signs of encouragement keep appearing through my self-imposed gloom, brought on through procrastination. Perhaps the Light is working for me after all. Oh me of little faith.

First, I helped a student of mine obtain some materials for the course he is on, and in return was offered a discount (by a different person) for the women's seminar with Karen Berg, which I really wanted to attend, but again thought "I can't afford". Even with the discount, if you add on the rail travel, my reaction is "I can't afford" but I am nipping that thought in the bud and booking it anyway. If I'm going to go in to debt then I would rather invest in my spiritual growth than buy shoes. Although new shoes would be nice. Perhaps I ought to scan for that too.

Secondly, after my hard graft in the front garden hacking away at the hedge a couple of weeks ago, many hours (oh, okay, minutes) have been spent looking at the size of the hedges in the back garden, and the enormous pine tree which is threatening to hide the shed. And I have been wondering how many weeks it will take to cram all of the foliage in to my single brown bin, knowing that I have to wait two weeks for each collection. I think my latest calculation was to get the job done by January, and amass 1,500 scratches on my arms in the process, which will take until I am 43 to heal.

But no more. I've just had a call from a gardener to say that the Letting Agents are sending him round to quote for trimming the tree and the hedges in the back garden. This is totally out of the blue - the Letting Agents did not even mention this when I phoned to query the installation of my aerial and painting the exterior woodwork. Bonus!

And last but not least, this song just about says it all for me at this moment in time (especially the bit at the end!)