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

Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being


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Stuck on I want to be THAT healing musician!

Since my unexpected hospitalization back in August and since turning 40 and perhaps just because, I’ve been exploring what it is that I really want to be doing with my life here in Israel while I balance a part-time job working for a research company and mothering four children.

Looking back to that time in August, I can say with great confidence that one of the main causes for my apparent speedy release from the hospital was the effects of the harmonic prayers sung to me at my bedside by my dear friend and her 12-year-old daughter.

I felt so comforted and so unafraid while in their presence.

Just thinking back to those precious moments brings me to tears of pure gratitude.

Which has brought me to thinking that perhaps I was blessed (not only to survive that hospital experience, but with a beautiful voice and musical capabilities) for a reason.

And in speaking with a kibbutz friend of mine who works as a spiritual counselor (chaplain) for an incredible Israeli organization, Haverut, (which empowers the medical center to become a healing center for the body and mind) and my new interest in “giving back” to patients what I received when I was hospitalized, I got to thinking… hmmmm… maybe life is really unfolding in front of my eyes.

And perhaps I need to recognize the doors that may be opening in front of me.

So, the first thing I did was purchase a musical instrument.

Good thing I wasn’t stuck on buying a harmonium because in the end I bought something entirely different, both in its home country (made in Germany rather than in India), its sound (sweet harp-like sounds rather than heavy organ-like sounds), and its size (light and portable as opposed to heavy and bulky).

I bought a Sansula.

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I never heard of it before entering the shop selling authentic musical instruments in Tel Aviv.

But I started to play it and fell in love.

And didn’t think twice about purchasing it.

I knew it was what I wanted.

Since then, I traveled to Jerusalem to shadow two men (who call themselves “healing musicians”) who work for Haverut and lift the spirits of those who are ill and recuperating at the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem.

These two men are nothing short of professional; with Navot on the guitar and Avshalom on the flute, they not only have pitch-perfect voices, but they can play nearly anything requested and can play at least one song in the following languages: Hebrew, English, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Yiddish.

I am grateful for the three hours I spent with them, not only because I was able to observe the effects of their music and presence on the patients, but I was able to learn from them some of the norms and expectations that go along with this “job” (if you can call it that).

The truth is, as I entered each patient’s room with them, I found myself having a recurrent thought: “I want to be like them.”

I want to be as talented as they are.

I want to be able to play guitar like Navot and pull songs out of a hat with ease.

I want to be able to sing in six languages.

But, as soon as I noticed myself getting stuck, I stopped.

And took a breath.

And saw what perhaps was underneath all of this: the fact that I am an “educated” woman (with a master’s of science degree in occupational therapy and experience working in rehab settings) and yet I am not putting my education to work and haven’t felt fulfilled professionally since making aliyah.

But, I was able to change perspectives.

And instead of being stuck on wanting to be like the amazing healing musicians I met in Jerusalem, I realized that yes, I have the potential to become a medical musician (if this is where my heart will guide me), but that my gift to the patients would be something entirely different from the gift Navot and Avshalom offer to theirs.

My music won’t be familiar songs on the radio or in synagogues, but perhaps rather improvisational instrumentals or melodies of personalized blessings accompanied by the magical harp-like sounds of the Sansula.

And so, when I volunteer this week on the rehab floor at the local hospital in Afula, I will go in with an open mind and nothing more.

And not wanting to be anyone else, other than myself.

Knowing that what I am doing now is exploring my possibilities.

And creating opportunities.

And continuing, as always, to watch the life unfold moment by moment.

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Stuck on I Really Hope You Like My Passover Seder!

Two weeks ago I participated in a class on the kibbutz on how to successfully lead a Passover seder with children.

The facilitator mentioned a number of possible common struggles that people may face during the seder such as the “struggle” of sitting through the seder (on an empty stomach) and where the focus may be more about getting to the meal than it is about caring about meaning of the evening itself; and the struggle of figuring out ways of keeping family and guests who may not be interested in the seder engaged.

I identified with a lot of these experiences and was inspired by the dozens of suggestions that were suggested to us.

From all the ideas that were shared, I decided to choose 4 to bring to our seder this year. (Seemed like a holiday appropriate number… Plus, I didn’t want to overwhelm the family with too many innovations at one time.)

I chose to:

1) Create a distinct gathering place to read the Hagaddah other than the table in which we would later eat the meal. Not only would our guests be able to recline (literally!), they wouldn’t be sitting at a dinner table staring at their empty plates and anticipating a meal being served for hours on end.

2) Encourage the children (and adults!) to ask questions by offering incentives (one chocolate chip for each question asked) throughout the entire seder.

3) Put out an array of cut vegetables and lots of interesting home-made dips (after the blessing of karpas), in order to help keep those who are “starving” from wanting to rush through the seder just to get to the meal.

4) Create a group scavenger hunt for the children to find the afikomen and offer prizes for all.

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Besides the whole evening, I really wanted these four things to go over well.

I wanted this year to be different.

I wanted this seder to be a success.

I wanted my husband’s family to go along happily with my innovations to their family seder and have the ideas turn into new family traditions for them.

And a few days before the seder, I realized how stuck I was on all of this.

I knew I had to let go so that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

And instead chose a different perspective.

That instead of trying to impress or win over my husband’s family with ideas that I think are fabulous, I should just focus on my own children and know I am doing this for them.

And so, I went into the seder with no expectations from the rest of the family.

However it would go, it would go.

As long as my kids enjoyed and got something out of the evening.

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But, it was (thank, G-d!) a success!

And of course, I’m thrilled out it.

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The top 10 things I learned about this year’s family seder.

IMG-20150330-WA00021) Create a separate place to do the seder (other than the place where we eat).  It offers amazing possibilities.  Not only does it allow people to rest/lounge/recline in an enjoyable way, it creates a sense of intimacy that you just don’t get when you sit at a long table and only have a chance to speak to the person who randomly sits next to or across from you.

Picture 0622) Start at 6 pm.  It’s ideal for this family (who has lots of kids), even though the holiday technically doesn’t start until later. If the guests come early, have the kids make drawings and hang them up on the wall for decoration.

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3) Offer incentives (chocolate chips) for asking questions during the reading of the hagaddah.  It completely engenders people to ask questions (which is one of the points of the seder in the first place).  So, it takes off the need to create a didactic atmosphere, and instead offers possibility for people to be genuine and ask any question related to that evening. Questions asked last night went from the youngest (pointing to the seder plate and asking, “What is this?”), to the 9-year-old who asked “Why didn’t Pharoah let the Children of Israel leave after the first plague?” to one of the adults who questioned some of the choice of words of the ancient text of the haggadah.  At some point, I felt I had to stop the questions so that we could continue the seder, otherwise we would never have finished!!!!

Picture 0634) Put out cut vegetables and dips after the karpas blessing.  It’ll save the night.  First of all, it was unexpected and the guests went wild over the bean dip, the honey/mustard dip, the hummus, the tahini, etc.  Secondly, it kept people from “starving” and wanting to rush through the seder just to get to the meal.

Picture 0695) If we’re going to do #4 next year, and there’s chicken/matzah ball soup for the next course and then gefilte fish for the next, people will get full!!!  And they’re not going to eat much more.  Make half of what you would ordinarily make!

6) The Gura family prefers my Sephardi charoset over my Ashkenazi charoset.

Picture 0667) Definitely create a scavenger hunt for the afikomen.  The kids went wild over it.  They loved the various missions (dressing up as ancient Israelites, building pyramids from blocks), the little kids took turns reading the clues, and finding the afikomen as a group is much more fun (and takes off a lot of stress) than finding it on your own.  And definitely prizes for all. (Note to self: Go to marzipan museum next year for prize ideas.)

Picture 0688) When the meal is concluded and the family returns to the living room to lounge (the natural place to reconvene), continue the seder to the end including all the fun songs!!!!!

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9) Let the kids fall asleep in the “tent” even if the end of the seder is still going on, and let them sleep there for the entire week.  (The kids are off from school anyway, so why not?)

10) Offer to host again next year knowing that if I have even more ideas that I want to implement, it’ll be much easier to do implement them on my own turf than on someone else’s.

Chag Sameach to all!


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Stuck on G-d at Passover

This post originally appeared on the JKid Philly website.

A Letter to My Children.

Dear children,

Passover is approaching.  And with that, the excitement and craziness that come along with the holiday preparations.  And in the midst of all this, I got to thinking, if I could choose one thing, just one thing, to “pass on” to you regarding Passover, what would it be?

And within seconds, I had my answer.

Yet, interestingly, I realized that this answer would not have been the same answer had I asked myself the same question last year, or five years ago, or even 13 years ago when you, Ayalah, my eldest was just born.

In the past, I would have said something about family, tradition and freedom, either overlapping the themes in an illustrated Venn diagram or representing them in concentric circles with tradition probably coming into a close first.

But, something changed.

And it was due to my unexpected hospitalization on our recent trip back to America.

Where I contracted a random infection in which apparently 1 in 3 people die.

And I survived.

It was a miracle.

Just like in the story of Passover.

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It was there, while I lay in a very constricted place in a hospital bed in the I.C.U. scared out of my mind, when one of my beloved rabbis came to visit and advised me to “talk to Hashem”.

“Really,” he continued.  “Just speak to G-d.  Like you’re having a conversation.  Tell Him your fears.  Ask of Him.  But, above all, just speak to Him.”

Now, up until that time in the hospital, or frankly ever in my life, had anyone ever come close to suggesting to me to talk with G-d.

Not in the home I grew up in. Not at the Jewish camp, youth group, or Hebrew school I attended. Not in college.  Never.

The education that I received was more knowledge based, like learning how to read from a Hebrew prayer book, knowing how to celebrate the Jewish holidays, etc.

But, never ever, was there an emphasis on having a personal relationship with G-d.

And therefore, this concept of talking to G-d was quite foreign to me.

But, I gave it a try.

I figured at the time, what did I really have to lose?

I wasn’t doing much else in that hospital room anyway.

And after having that first conversation with G-d (ok, it wasn’t talking, it was more like begging for life), I found myself talking to G-d again.

In the hospital room.

In my parent’s house during my recuperation.

And later on in my Kibbutz Hannaton home, when I returned back to Israel.

Because I felt comforted.

And safe.

And that I was being heard.

And most importantly because I felt that I deeply wanted to have a personal relationship with G-d.

Something I never had before in the past.

And with that, my frame of reference in life shifted.

Realizing that everything I do and create comes from G-d.

That it is because of G-d that I am alive at this very moment.

That without G-d, there would be no Passover.

Or Family.

Or Tradition.

Or Freedom.

That, in the end, G-d comes before everything else.

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This is the conclusion I came to about six months ago (even at the ripe old age of 40) and it something that I still maintain today.

And this, my dear children, is what I want to pass on to you.

I love this holiday and look forward to it every year, just as you do.

I cherish being with family.

I appreciate the songs and the traditions and the foods.

I extremely value being reminded of and talking about slavery and freedom.

But above all of this, way above all of this…

is that I believe in G-d.

The G-d

Who brought us out of Egypt,

And Who saved us from enslavement,

And Who delivered us,

And Who took us as a nation.

And Who plays a role in all the miracles you experience in your daily lives.

And Who is constantly with each of you today, never forsaking you even for a moment.

And when you know and believe that, you, too will be able to create a real life relationship with G-d.