Tuesday, October 11, 2011




This is the last day of this PREPENT journey. The mountain has been
climbed, declimbed and goal achieved: I found more focus, entered the
new year with more clarity, intention, presence of heart and mind, and
more in the body. Check! I'm pleased and proud, and relieved.

Where am I now?
At home in NYC, sitting at my desk, in between building a succah in
the backyard, doing homework for school and getting ready for the rest
of the year.

40 days ago I was in love and in the beginning of what seemed like a
serious relationship but now it's clearly over and the heart is
mending. Lots to learn here.

37 days ago I started Rabbinical School. Going strong.

35 days ago I stopped eating meat and converted to pesactrian - still
happening. Weight lost, feeling's great.

27 days ago Wall St became occupied. Getting bigger.

18 days ago I got an Ipad. Easier on the commute to school.

14 days ago the new year began.

Today, I am here now. Grateful, a little gassy, super busy, but
feeling grounded and ready for the year. I think this PREPENT process
helps. I have no idea if anybody read each day or even many of them
(will you please let me know? thanks! your feedback really means so
much!!) but I'm glad I did it for me. Had there not been the public
duty I would have likely cut out earlier or missed a day or two. Thank
you all, for the encouragement, comments and support. I am so glad
this was helpful to others on the path.

so, to close -

Here is what I wrote 40 days ago, in the first post:

"Ayeka - Where are you?

On a blank screen or a sheet of paper, or anywhere and anyway you’d
like – ask yourself this ancient question and listen to what your soul
says and what is the one primary task ahead of you this year. The
journey begins, like all journeys, with a finger pointing at the map:
’you are here now.”

The 40 days are up, the journey begins, again, right now, with a
finger pointing at the map - where am I now - and where am I going?

See you there.

Shana Tova. Over and out.

Monday, October 10, 2011




A. asked me an excellent question this morning: 'did you learn anything from your PREPENT process'?

I had to pause.

I guess that if one takes 40 days to explore 40 ways in which more focus can be be found, clarity of intention is cultivated and a year is launched into being with attention to detail - learning SHOULD happen, in, at least some way. Otherwise, it's just mental masturbation. But the learning only happens when we really stop to listen to what we now know, or feel, and how it may be different, even with  changes as subtle as smiles.

With one more day to go, with careful time for closure, this is the time to ask this question - as one asks a kid who comes back from school: what did you learn today?

So during this year's PREPENT journey:

I learned to take things slower, much slower, lower expectations, reduce speed, esp. with romance. patience. 

I learned, yet again, to be less dependent on love/feedback from others and feel good about my own achievements. self love.

And I learned that there is a pattern to my failures, becoming more obvious as I take the time to analyze each painful fragment of collapse.  Walk in another street, avoid the same pitfalls. 

And I learned that I can survive heartache.  have faith. 

None of these are new lessons yet each of them is back for more. I guess it's what I have to learn this year, and what is on my plate as I begin this year of new beginning and intentions. 

I know that there are some of you are reading this - have been reading this - and THANK YOU to those of you who wrote, responded, shared intimate learning and thoughts. I invite you to wrap it with me - with a list of three things you learned from this season of atonement, these 40 days of focus-finding and perfection of self. 

Every thing I need to know I already learned in kindergarten, and even then, when I came home, it was hard to answer the question 'what did you learn today'. 

But I'm not a toddler anymore. And I take responsibility for my own good time, and my own hard earned learning, never, I hope, taken for granted. 

what did I learn and how can this make me live better?

One day to go. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011




The day after  anything significant and anticipated is a delicate day, a decompressing zone. I don't get to be in those places too long usually, the next thing comes and grabs my attention.  So it's good to pause. Worked hard and long to get here - yom kippur - 37 days in preparation, as 'soon' ' becomes 'now' and then  becomes 'then'. A powerful, emotional experience, many tears, deep prayers, beautiful singing, promises made, time for real reflections: deadline met - success! atonement! shofar blast! eat something!

Now what? 

how does a spiritual experience translate into a spiritual - aware and conscious - life?

what of the new promises and resolutions and responsibilities - how do I retain, remain connected to the urgency and depth of the commitment to change that I, with so many others, took on this yom kippur, just yesterday?

intentions fade so fast.

Jack Kornfiled wrote this great book "After the Ecstasy,Laundry" - all about the spiritual path and the little ways of cultivating awareness on both the holy days and the simple days of our lives.  He writes about the wisdom of small goals, doable, simple every day moments of intentional  awareness. 

Maybe the challenge is not to ask now what but to just imbue each 'now' with a very clear 'what'. 

The day after yom kippur, with some definite ecstatic moments, I am indeed doing laundry.  quiet time to decompress. 

But then later I'm also starting to build a succa in my backyard. Just got the lumber.  The day after is also the day of prep for next. in a good way.

There's this Jewish custom to start building the succah right after Yom Kippur - as soon as you've broken your fast. I remember Yom Kippur nights in Jerusalem, where within hours of the fast's end you'd hear hammers and aluminum pipes dragged out of storage, late into the night. 

From one religious experience to another, from one symbol to another in this replayed drama of the soul's growth, each season and year, from the courtroom of kippur to the cozy womb of succot, into the shelter of peace. 

Whoever came up with this custom knew something about the 'day after syndrome' and introduced a transformational therapeutic way to channel the powerful energy of kippur into the rest of our lives - build something. A way to make sure a spiritual experience is in some way grounded in the cultivation of a spiritual life. 

Building a succah - a glorified dining room, really - is a commitment to starting this new year of a spiritual life with the friends and allies we want around the table. It's a good thing to build. 

In the now what of post kippur is a process of reckoning and wrapping up, reviewing  goals I set out for myself during this prepent journey to the high holidays- commitments, questions, regrets, changes. Got three days to complete a 40 day pilgrimage,  and build another succah and another year, a better model even yet. 

Saturday, October 08, 2011


Today is the day of at-one-ment. 
we live it with silence, self control, sacred words, soul songs,  tears, smiles, moments of true reflection. 

Barefoot, famished, rehearsing our grand departure from this flesh filled living, wearing shroud-like whites we take the time to highlight, delete, restart our lives.

We ask for change. We stand alone, all together. It is a rare treat. 

Every relationship needs this reminder of why it even matters. Romance must be rekindled. So must our love of self. Of others.
Today is about that. In the mythic liturgy the High Priest enters the holy of holies today, only once a year. That's what love is about, when truly entered, a holy of holies, an intimacy within intimacy. Not just once a year. 

Yesterday on the street I first noticed one sticker on a wall  - it read 'Love Me'. An hour later there was another sticker: "Love Yourself".

Just add a question mark to these two statements and there's today's questions, task and mission. Do I love? 

May this day bring clarity and focus and more love - to ourselves and to all around us. 

Easy and beautiful day. Meet you in the pages of book of love. 

Friday, October 07, 2011




Oh how we say words we don't really mean. 
'im starving' is one of those easily tossed expressions, right there with 'love you' and 'whatever'.

It's not that big of a deal, but when there is real hunger in the world and we just skipped lunch - we are guilty of excess, almost dishonesty. Can we make sure that comes out of our mouth is as wholesome and intentional as what goes into our mouth? 

There is real hunger within us, real starvation - for meaning. 

"We need to declare a moratorium on old, hallowed, and overused words: a linguistic fast... Paul Tillich, the Protestant theologian, said that the great words - faith, hope, love, grace, sin and salvation - sometimes become so trivialized and degraded that we need to cease using them for a generation." (Sam Keen)

Yes to the more attention to what we say, and how and what we eat. More control on mouth traffic this coming year. 

This is the busy day in prep for the big day - but it's a big day on its count - the day of finishing unfinished business, and the day of the feast that leads to the fast. 

In chadisic traditions, the eating before the fast is the most important meal of the year. "With the intentional eating on the ninth day of Tishrei" wrote the Sfat Emet back in Poland in the late 19th century, "we fix all the unintentional eating of the entire previous year." 

Fast food, like quick txt messages gets the job done but is low on nutrients. Quick eating - at the desk, on the train, standing up in the kitchen, 'grabbing a bite' is sometimes fun and delicious and all we can handle - but when it becomes a regular habit we are depriving our souls and bodies of true nourishment. 

Let alone eating all kinds of crap. 

So today's intention, in prep for the fast, is focus on the feast. I started this PREPENT journey with a commitment to more healthy eating and so glad and proud to report that it's going great. For the last six days I've eaten nothing but raw fruits and veggies, I think this detox is helping coz my energy is good and I must have lost a couple of pounds. Today's pre fast feast is going to be pomegranate, and mango and maybe some greens. The breakfast is going to be apples. with honey. 

It's not just the what - it's mostly the how. 

Prepare for the new year with good intention, more slow, more focus, more love of self, more feast, more in the here and now. 

delicious feast, easy fast. 

Gmar Tov. 

Thursday, October 06, 2011




"Nothing shapes our lives so much as the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never dream of asking. " (Sam Keen)

Steve Jobs, of blessed memory, asked hard questions,  challenged the accepted norms and created a new universal language fusing art and science, transforming the way we live. I watched an interview with him once where he said that he only had one question 'how can this be better'? 

Great leaders know how to challenge their communities, asking hard questions that change the collective narrative, sometimes for better sometimes for worse.
Reflective thinkers take time to ask themselves questions that are equally important to their inner lives and growth.

One day to go before the feast and the fast of kippur, and another chance to pause and ponder the questions that guide this journey, which is almost over: How's life? why am I writing (or reading) this?  how can I make life better - for me and all around me? what do I need to learn?  and finally, how do I take these high and holy days and make them truly transformational, meaningful, real? 

This PREPENT process is all about asking real questions.  The answers matter less. At its core, this process of teshuva is all about the courage to challenge the status quo and ask hard questions. Teshuva means 'return' or 'reply' - but first must come the questions, honest and demanding. 

In "The Absence of God", the book by Sam Keen that I've been reading during this journey and quoting from, he writes about the importance of questions. Reading it this morning, on the subway to school, I underlined a passage and added a note:

"The men and women who made an enduring mark in history ignored the accepted worldviews, values, and myths of their time and chose to pursue their own answers to their deepest questions.Here's a random sample.

How we can put an end to suffering? - Buddha
What is eternal and unchanging? - Plato
Of what may I be certain? - Descartes
Why were men born free but are everywhere in chains? -- Karl Marx
What is the meaning of dreams? - Sigmund Freud
How is a woman unlike a man? -- Betty Friedan"

And I add my question  - "papa, can you hear me?"

Not just coz it's Barbara singing, as Yentel, in the over the top super kitschy final scene of the movie, but also because somehow, for me, this question is a deep yearning for what's beyond the here and now.
All of our liturgy can be found here. 
Any body out there? Is there rhyme or reason? Can I find comfort and guidance in the quiet place inside my heart where, maybe, the divine is present? 

What is the one question with which you will enter this day of atonement? 
Perhaps teshuva - the process of finding answers to our greatest questions can happen only we are willing to risk the questions that define our lives, regardless of the outcome? 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011




"We who have been unsatisfied by any traditional religion have spentour lives in quest of a rose, but the closest we ever get is entering a room still redolent with the scent of a rose that was removed before we arrived."

It's unavoidable: the god factor, yes or no or other or what? Yom
kippur is here again and this prepent process, almost over, sends me
back again to probe the big one: does god matter? (and does the no
capital G use matter?)

I'm pretty sure that this entire repentance process can be succesfuly
completed and be totally devoid of theological land mines - virtually
god-free. We take stock of the year that was, focus on what matters to
us now and plan ahead for the future, full of high hopes. Humans
striving to do/be better.
We ask each other for forgiveness, deal with our shame, regret, rage,
responsibilities. We fast because our ancestors used to, we cry when
the liturgy rips at our heart with memory and manipulative poetry, and
god's got nothing to do with it. If we pray we use allegory,
psychological convictions, Contemplative tools. It's not about god -
Creator, source, judge or imaginary friend. If we address anything at
all in our pleas for help or rants of rage or simple thank you's it's
some vague sense of the universe, the life force, nature, or perhaps
our inner selves.


Over drinks a few days ago G. Asks me about god - "does faith give you
comfort"? He wants examples.

The best that I can do is tell him that yes, there is comfort here,
there is a powerful sense of being part of a plan bigger than self, a
plan that is both chaos and cosmos, random pain and intentional
pleasure, all blended up, no sense or rhyme or reason - but real and
larger than life.
I may be fooling myself but prayer helps me; at times of great need
and vast awe I reach out higher and it feels - and sometimes thinks -
important, connected, not alone.

G., ever the journalist does not relent: " do you believe in god"?

I promise him an answer after yom kippur.

And I take these remaining days of prepenting to wrap up as many
unfinished friend related tasks as possible and focus on the g spot
and my relationship with IT circa now.

What's the role of god in whatever form in your life? ( not a
rhetorical question. I'm really curious, dear readers, fellow
prepenters, do tell??)

"We who have been unsatisfied by any traditional religion have spent
our lives in quest of a rose, but the closest we ever get is entering
a room still redolent with the scent of a rose that was removed before
we arrived. We cannot easily locate God in the house of our longing,
yet we remain haunted; God's missing presence echoes throughout the
empty rooms. In the void we hear faint hymns of an ancient faith for
which we no longer have room among the endless quarks, waves and
subatomic particles identified by science. We exist in a God-shaped
vacuum. That which is no longer present (but is not completely absent)
gives shape to our aspirations and longing."

In the Absence of God, Sam Keen

Tuesday, October 04, 2011




Do you find it difficult to ask for help when you really need it? I
do. I need help to be able to ask others for help, esp. with
difficult personal stuff. This is one of my PREPENT discoveries, as I
go through this past year's inventory of actions and behaviours in my
life that need, well, help.

I can go for a long time in a strange city with a map and not ask for
directions, and finally figure it out. Asking for help can be awkward.
I am not the best fundraiser out there - even though I know it's not
about asking for help - its about inviting someone to be a partner in
a great idea. Still.
I'm getting better with those, but it's the real vulnerable sort of
asking for help that i'm focused on. The deep cry of the soul.
Where do I reach out and ask for help when I'm stuck or alone, scared,
sad or confused, or heartbroken. Who does one turn to, and how does
one ask for help when things come undone?

I count my blessings - the friends and loved ones who are there when
help is needed, and hope that I too can hear others when they ask for
help from me. At various difficult moments this past year, different
friends were there for me, helping out, helping in.

And during one of those difficult moments, alone on the street, I
asked for help from God.

Faith or not, this face of the divine or that or all, at times, on my
knees in some puddle, the reach out for help reaches far into all that
can be possibly there to make things better. It's a low place that
knows to rise and needs the help of all that is out there, in here.

A private prayer, an intimate conversation, imaginary friend, alone on
the street, plea for help in rising up, finding focus, finding love,
remaining present. Thank you. Amen.

In class today we examine liturgy and the meaning of prayers, and what
works or doesn't in public worship settings where so much intimacy is
lost. Spoke about the role of prayer in our lives - alone or with
others, why and how and what it is or is not for us. In another class
we studied a midrash about God as the collector of the broken hearted,
whose prayer for help sound sweetest.

I think about that real moment of prayer that erupted for me, out of
need, alone on the street, a need for guidance and help at large.
I think about all these high and holy days when we gather to do
together something so intimate - asking for help together, from a
grander source that we do or dont' believe in. and still.

Learning how to as for help - from friends - from myself - from the
universe - is, for me, still an important lesson in learning. This
period of reflection helps me focus on that, and the experience of the
public prayers, so intense, these high holidays - adds a serious spin.
a lot to work on. I'll need some help.. and I'll hope to know how to
simply ask for it.

Monday, October 03, 2011



It's business as usual at school, homework and tasks and fall to-do's, all the accumulated emails of work and such, and in the middle of all this life - who's got time to do this sacred inner work and truly prep for Yom Kippur? 

Need a time out? Could you use a retreat from the distractions of this overburdened style of life and make room for quiet self examination? Not the time out of errant children, not exactly - more like the time out of errant grown up who choose to take the time alone and figure it out - what can be done better? 

Need it?

I do. Even this PREPENT blog has become a 'to do' task, and the original flavor almost lost inside the mechanics of daily obligation and the looming deadline, real or not. 

So here's my re dedication to a daily practice, just FIVE minutes, morning or night, quietly, alone,  reflection, time out, check in - at least through the end of this 40 day process, till some more focus is found. It's easy to lose sight of the goal so close to the finishing line, but I think this is where I need it most - the boost, the reminder, the time alone to process and prepare. 

My friend and teacher David Wolkin shared with me a 5 step exercise for making more of these ten days of return - a time out for reflection, a reality check:

Imagine if you had to spend 10 days in a room confronted with all of your sins/mistakes/wrongdoings of the past year:


Read David's full text on his blog here: http://wolkin.com/2010/09/1270/rosh-hashanah-has-nothing-to-do-with-comics/

and see the basic 5 questions below:

1. What would that room look like? How big would it be?

2. Who or what would be in this room? Would there mostly be people in that room? Actions? Thoughts? Decisions? Ideas?

3. What what you say to them/what would they say to you?

4. What would it feel like to spend 10 days in there? Could you handle it?

5. What would you do with the time that you had in there? What would you address first, last?

So many ways to check in and make time out work for our souls. I hope this is helpful. 

Sunday, October 02, 2011




Feeling good in your skin? in the body? I am feeling physically better than I have in a long time mostly thanks to the now 30 days long pescatarian diet - but still feel the need to cleanse - body and soul. Detox time. 

This prepent 40 day process ends with the Kippur 24 hour fast - a cleanse for body and soul, a focused meditation on craving and discipline. I think I need a longer version this year. Starting today, thanks to Shira, I'm on a seven day raw fruit and veggie detox diet. It will end as I break the fast on Yom Kippur, probably on a mango. (ok, and then a single malt)

I want to lose the weight of the rage, the heavy fear, the terrible loneliness that tags along to the lack of faith that it will be ok when my heart mends and I don't feel so lonely and left behind. I want to  use these last ten days of teshuva, this manipulated return process to the max.  Sins are sometimes vague and repentance a big word - this feels  simple and grounded in truth - purify, clean, shed. 

I want more clarity of gut feelings, a plumbing job for all that is stuck. 

I started this PREPENT period thirty days ago with the very least intention of change in the form of nutrition upgrade. I took on  a healthier breakfast, a pesactarian diet and more home cooked meals. Check on all three.

I'm pleased to be still on this wagon - but I want also to bring into this journey the awareness of the emotional baggage that has made these days of reckoning so much more meaningful and dreadful than ever before.  Eyes wide open to the pain of disappointment and the fears of being alone. 

If any of you reading this feels like this is remotely interesting - find your own way to focus on food this week, on detox (coffee?) or cleansing in some way the balances mind and body and soul. 

There's this beautiful liturgy for these days: "The soul is yours, and the body is your creation - have pity on all this creation. "

So, detox. simplicity. a harsh, limiting, disciplined matter of self control. One week. Go. 

What should young people do with their lives today? .. the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured - Kurt Vonnegut



I know what Vonnegut is talking about - we all do. Sooner or later we all expeirence terrible lonelienss, for longer or less. Dealing with loneliness - in ourselves and in the lives of others - is a big part of what our culture is about, for better or worse. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011



I didn't get arrested, but it was close. Truth is, I didn't want to. This fight is right - but not all fights are worth the price of freedom - not for everyone, not always.

what would you go to jail for, today? what fight? if any?

Down at the Wall St. protests today,  there to show support and solidarity with the anti corporate greed movement, he winds turned cold quickly and the march on the Brooklyn bridge  gets wild and before we know it there is confusion and commotion and people get pushed and there's yelling and shoving and I find myself out of there before I know it.  The friends I came with are split up. Some stay. we all txt to confirm ok. none that we knew then get arrested - and I decide to leave right away. Can't handle the heat and tension and the noise. Sorry. Been there, done that, not today. I hail my friends who are out there, fighting, reporting, passionate, tireless.

I ended up walking alone for several hours, thinking about what it means to be part of a movement, or a march or a nascent budding moment, like drops of water in a wave, and then what does it mean to separate from 'it' as the wave crashes and become - wanting to or not -  what we are  - I am - ultimately about at the end of the day - alone.  

It doesn't help that the rain came and the first real chill of winter in the air.
The moody lighting of a fading Sabbath sun, sometimes romantic, sometimes mysterious, today was a picture of Gothic gloom.  
It did help that in the context of these days of prepenting I had a framework with which to process this emotional street scene, so different than the summer protests I was part of in Israel this past summer - such a different sense of 'we'. 

Embrace the aimless walking, the slow pace, the temporarily-no-obligation-to-anybody-else situation that you are now in, I say to myself, somewhere between Chinatown and Nolita and I start walking even slower, umbrella in hand, and think about what's worth it in my life - what would do I go to jail for? what would be worth it that much? What change would I fight for with as much energy and determination as to risk my freedom? - this which I have right now as  I walk here, totally free to be whatever I want and make every decision?

Being part of a 'we' - from a couple to a nation, will always restructure the sense of the 'me', of what it means to be an individual - of how it feels to sometimes feel alone. So much of our social structures are built around this notion of support systems so that we are not alone. 

but at the end of the day, aren't we always? 

A question with which to go to sleep, on a rainy night, privileged, dry, home, and safe, and alone, and free. 

is THIS worth it?

ten days to go, finding focus, clarity, within.