The S.T.U.C.K. Method

Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being


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STUCK on a CIVIL WAR

disagreement-414464

It was 9 am and I was just about to enter the egalitarian synagogue on our kibbutz when two boys riding along the sidewalk adjacent to the synagogue, stopped and got off their bikes.

(*To understand the conversation below, it’s important to understand that these two boys live in the neighborhood outside of the kibbutz and whose families do not take part in regular kibbutz religious or social activities.)

Boy 1: “What is this building?”

Ok, I was already in shock.  I responded even before the 2nd boy had a chance to.  “The synagogue on the kibbutz.  You didn’t know?”

Boy 2: “No, that’s the synagogue”, pointing to the recently built youth hall in which a group of people decided to form their own Orthodox minyan (prayer forum).

Me: “Actually, this is a synagogue and people come to pray here on Shabbat and holidays.  This is my synagogue.”

Boy 2 to boy 1 (in a disgusted kind of way): “This is NOT a synagogue.  And you know why?  Girls!  Men and women sitting together!  Kippot (head coverings)!  Tallitot (prayer shawls).  Agh!  This is NOT a synagogue.  Let’s go.”

And, off they went.

And, as I stood there by myself, my mind went directly up to a branch.

Boy, was I stuck.

On a few things.

First, I judged those two boys… (What disrespect! What lack of manners!  What lack of tolerance!)

Then, I judged their parents… (How could they be teaching their children this?… Are these the seedlings of a civil war?)

Then, I was stuck on needing to fix this problem.

True, this is not a real civil war (thank God), and no one is throwing stones at us, but this is not acceptable! This definitely could lead our community down a terrible path.

Yet, the more I practice to be aware of the branches I’m stuck hanging onto, the quicker I find myself getting off them.

And just noticing.

And just breathing.

And just recognizing that in that moment, there was nothing really to resolve.

Except for me to be present.

And, practice not getting distracted.

From just noticing what is real.

Like my feelings.

My emotions.

Just noticing them.

Without reacting.

So instead, I walked into the synagogue, and when I sang “Oseh Shalom” (God will make peace for all of us), I prayed that all humans will eventually wake up to do the same.

So instead of a civil war where kids learn to despise their neighbors’ religious practices, they will learn to simply open their hearts to just noticing.

Like me.


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STUCK on NO GUESTS

sukkah

One of the reasons I love the holiday of Sukkot (besides the fact that I was born during it!) is the aspect of welcoming guests into the Sukkah that my husband, children, and I work so hard to build and decorate together.

But, this year, on the first night, we had no guests.

And believe me, all day long leading up to the first evening of the 7 day-holiday, I was stuck on having no guests.

I was just too last minute to remember to even invite guests, and instead was busy (literally dripping with sweat), as I cooked, ran around the kibbutz cutting down branches (s’chah) with my neighbor’s enormous cutting shears for the roof of our sukkah, decorated the synagogue with myrtle (hadas) branches, hung each of my kids’ beaded branches, set the table, crocheted a center piece and put pieces of fresh aromatic myrtle in it, cooked some more, ensured all the roles of the synagogue were being taken of for the holiday (did I mention I am the head of the synagogue committee on my kibbutz?), and the list went on.

And, as the sweat continued to pour down my head, I just got more and more upset.

How did I let this happen?

How did I forget to invite guests? – Such an integral aspect of the holiday!!

What will my kids think?

They’re going to be pissed at me!

They love guests!

And, especially on holidays.

Shit.

And, in my last minute attempt to invite guests, it seemed that everyone already either had plans or was away.

Double shit.

And, in my rage, as often times happens, my husband wants to know why I’m mad at him, though, of course, I’m not.  I’m mad at myself.

***********

The day quickly passed and we all continued to be in a hurry, and, as my husband climbed up to the ridiculously high roof of our Sukkah and I inadeptly threw my enormoulsy newly cut branches up to him for him to place on to the roof, our youngest child (2 years old) looked up at his dad standing on top of the Sukkah and asked innocently, “Abba, what are you doing?”

And, my husband wittingly responded, “Making Ema (Mom) happy.”

And, just those 3 words broke the “stuckiness”.

I laughed.

I laughed hard.

It was actually quite funny to me.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

Suddenly, I was happy.

How could I not see, this entire day, how happy and lucky I was… For my husband, for my kids, for the beautiful sukkah we built together and the delicious food that was simmering in the pots, for our community and synagogue, for the weather, for living in Israel, for the gorgeous view we have from our Sukkah.  For our health.  For so much.

So, I thought to myself, why are you stuck on no guests?

There are still 7 days of the holiday left!

7 breakfasts!

7 lunches!

6 more dinners!

Endless snack times!

What are you so upset about?

It’s the Time for Happiness (Z’man Simchtaynu) for goodness sake!

**********

And so, in the traditional way of inviting transcendent guests (Ushpizin, Biblical characters) into our Sukkah, we went around, on that first night of Sukkah, and each family member took a turn to invite (out loud) one guest to our Sukkah, whether the person was alive or deceased.

As I listened to each choice, I cried tears of happiness.

For the guests we had just invited.

And, for the ability to be happy about it.


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STUCK on a Branch for CHILDREN

branch I imagine most of the subscribers to this blog are adults.

Yet, the blog is meant to be for children as well.

Well, not necessarily for children to read, but for parents to pass the wisdom on to them.

****

Yesterday, while walking along a path inside the kibbutz, I noticed a 4 year old on his plastic motorcycle purposefully run into his 2 year old brother.  The mother approached her child, reprimanded him, let out a long sigh, and then noticed me passing her way.  She called over to me.  “Shira, you must have advice for me.  You have 3 boys.  How do you deal with this? I don’t want to yell at my four year old all the time.  When I put him in his room, he just runs out and then I have to chase him to get him back in.  I don’t want to lose my patience with my children, but I’m at my wits’ end.”

Now, even though I have 4 children, I am far from believing I am an expert parent.  I never give unsolicited advice to anyone.

But, she approached me.

And, so, I answered.

I told her what I do with my kids:

  • I first ask them if they are stuck on a branch.

(Recall: I was working on a children’s book this year on this very topic, so my children are quite familiar with the terminology.)

Usually, I don’t get an immediate response, but by the look of their eyes, I can tell something is registering.

  • Then, I ask them on which branch they are stuck.

Usually, they are too angry, frustrated, or upset to express anything to me.  So, I make suggestions to them and they respond yes or no.

  • Then, I ask them where they feel that emotion in their body.  (This is usually easy for my five year old who always tells me he feels it in his belly.)
  • Then, I ask them to take a breath and just continue to notice the feeling.  And then, either we talk about the situation, or, more times than not, they just run back to playing (because, on their own, they realize that if they stay stuck, they will miss something very important in their lives at that moment).

I am not necessarily teaching my kids how to prevent getting into negative situations, and certainly not how to run away from them, but rather how to just notice them and notice how to be in them.

And, allow the moment to arise where they can notice what they are missing when they are stuck.

And, help them notice when the emotion eventually dissipates.

****

As the holiday of Sukkot approaches, in which Jews build temporary huts commemorating the 40 years when the Children of Israel wandered in the desert after the Exodus, I encouraged each of my children this year to make their own branch with which to help decorate our family Sukkah (temporary hut).

So that even when the holiday is over, the branch can hang in their room and act as a reminder and guide for when they get stuck.

Because we all do.

Even children.


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STUCK on a BLESSING

blessingI received this blessing minutes ago, just before the onset of Yom Kippur.

“I wish you, with all my heart, that the new year will be a blessed year, to you and your beloved family (whom I love very much), and I wish you will have many happy days that you can flow with them in joy, without getting stuck for even a moment.”

And, I’m stuck on loving it.

Thank you, Dina.


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STUCK on ATONEMENT

atonement Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is two days from now.

In preparation for this holy day, I turned inwards and brought to mind people to whom I thought I needed to ask for forgiveness.

In my small community, I thought of three people.

To be honest, I don’t actually feel like I had to ask for forgiveness for anything specific, per say, but I did feel the need to kind of “clear the air” and check in with them because recently I was feeling negative vibes from each of them.

I wanted to be upfront with them.

And ask them, in earnest, was there anything I did to them in this past year (intentionally or unintentionally) that hurt them.

So that I could, in return, sincerely apologize and request forgiveness.

So, I approached my first community friend today with that question.

He received me with welcome arms, listened to my words, said he couldn’t think of anything specific that I did, but he accepted my general apology, and in turn, said he was sorry, too.

I was happy.

Then, I approached my second community member.  He responded to me saying that while he was impressed with my reaching out to him, we “don’t have a deep enough or intimate enough relationship to have this conversation.”

Huh?!?!

Yes, this is what he said to me.

I was so shocked.

So shocked.

That I just smiled and replied, “ok” and left.

This did not make me happy.

Finally, I approached my third community friend, by writing an email asking to set up a time to speak.

She replied, “I’m busy.  Can you just tell me what you want in writing?”

So, I told her it was related to Yom Kippur stuff, asking for forgiveness, and I’d rather meet in person.

She never responded to my response.

And, I was let down.

How could this be?

How could someone honestly not give someone the opportunity to atone for their sins?

To make amends?

To say she’s sorry?

Seriously?

You are denying me my obligation to do a mitzvah (commandement)?

Really?

What nerve.

How could they?

What jerks.

I don’t need them anyway.

Good luck to you on the upcoming “sealing in the Good Book of Life”.

Then, I saw it.

I was stuck.

Hanging on aversion.

So, I paused.

Perhaps there was a reason for their behaviors.

Perhaps they don’t have the guts to speak to me.

Perhaps they don’t have the social ability to have such a conversation.

Perhaps they have no experience with this and are just afraid to start.

Who knows?

All I know is that I had the ability to just notice all of that.

And be with it.

And let it go.

And then forgive myself.

For getting stuck once again.


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STUCK on MORALITY

morality1My last post, intended to focus on awareness of my judgment of others during shared dining experiences, received interesting comments (mostly to my personal Facebook page) regarding differing cultural values.

One friend responded, “there is no right or wrong.  Just different.”

Another friend claimed, “you can’t judge different cultures for having different rules of etiquette.”

A third friend attached a link to an article (which I found both fascinating and hysterical at the same time) delineating the idiosyncrasies of eating behaviors around the world.

And so, although it wasn’t my intention for the post to go in that direction, I started thinking about all of this… values, morals, cultural differences, etc.

And started wondering to myself, do I really not have the right to judge others?

Is there really no right or wrong?

Recently, I sat in a community committee meeting.  About 1/2 hour before the meeting was supposed to end, one person got up to leave.  She had let us know in the beginning of the meeting of her need to leave early.  Immediately following this, two others also said they had to leave.

With no explanation.

They just said they also had to leave.

And, they did.

And, the meeting continued with two people left (including me).

Was this not wrong?

Can I not judge or inquire into this situation?

Or, how about this?  In the past week, our Syrian “brothers” have mass murdered their own citizens.

Is this just different?

Can I not judge this behavior as wrong and bad?

Sure I can.

In both instances.

And I will.

The point isn’t necessarily that I can’t have feelings or emotions.

Or, that I can’t believe something is wrong.

Of course I can.

And do.

And will.

The question is whether or not I’m practicing to be aware of my thoughts.

And, notice them.

And, be with them.

Before I react (and do something I may regret later in life).

And, inevitably suffer from that.


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STUCK on RIGHT and WRONG

right and wrong At what point are values negotiable?

I was recently sitting at a holiday meal when our host started to serve soup.

When I was served my soup, I sat patiently, with my hands in my lap, waiting for everyone else to be served and for the host to sit down.

To me, this was the respectful thing to do.

The right thing to do.

As clear as night and day.

Well, the person to my left obviously had another opinion because as soon as he was served, he started to eat.

In fact, he was drinking the remainder of his soup (yes, literally) even before the host had a chance to sit down.

I was appalled.

Embarrassed.

Stuck.

In my mind, I wanted to parent this person (who, by the way, wasn’t my child).

I wanted to tell this person that this is not the correct way to behave.

I wanted to teach this person a thing or two about respect.

And then the host came back to the table, saw the empty bowl, and chuckled to the eater, “Hey, why don’t you have some soup, won’t you?”

WHAT???

Was the host laughing?

He wasn’t upset?

Not disappointed?

Thank goodness I caught myself before I opened my mouth.

And, had the chance to just notice.

Perhaps I wasn’t right?

Perhaps there is no right and wrong here?

Perhaps even if there is, I’m really only responsible for my behavior, not his.

So, I just sat there.

And, smiled at that realization.

And then, I was able to enjoy my soup.