Walk with balance, walk with strength

Yesterday was the Tenth Day of the Omer - tiferet in g'vurah - balanced beauty in strength.

At our Talmud lunch today, we studied the midrash about Abraham breaking idols (Bereishit Rabah 38:13).

The conclusion focuses on the power of Abraham's connection with God - Abraham walks through a fire unscathed on account of his spiritual prowess.

Perhaps the strength that we can find is one that allows us to find the difficult path through hazardous places - both within and without. This is strength that relies on balance - endurance that allows us to choose our steps and paths wisely.

Finding the right footing helps us walk with strength.

Inner balance leads to strong steps in the right direction.

Seek Strength

The Ninth Day of the Omer - strength within strength.

Pursuing strength, hardness, justice, often requires discipline - it is important to push ourselves.

With all our fuzzy language about kindness and love, we still know that at the core of our work we must pursue it with determination and rigor.

We must find that core of discipline, the spark of motivation that helps us push through to our next level, whatever and wherever that might be.

Strength can be a value - rigor can be a priority - finding the sources to persist requires us to dig deep.

Be determined. Persevere.

Strength starts with kindness

[Yesterday's Omer Counting Reflection]

A week devoted to our internal upright nature, the part of us that holds up rigorous standards, and seeks justice.

This is the week of g'vurah - the strong arm of our personalities.

The first day of every week of the Omer starts with chesed - loving-kindness.

When we start with kindness, our justice will be tempered with mercy.

When we start with love, our high standards will be softened with forgiveness.

When we start with compassion, our strict clinging to rules will be infused with a bending that is stronger than any easily snapped brittleness.

Let our strength be guided by love. 

Day Thirty-Seven of the Omer

Gevurah in Yesod - rigor, discipline, and strength in a solid foundation.

Building anything lasting, starting with the ground up, requires discipline. This applies to relationships as well as construction projects.

I have actually managed to ride bicycles to school with my son twice this week - and what a joy. This didn't happen all at once.

The first time Jude and I went for a long bike ride it ended in his tears. That was more than two years ago. Since then I worked with Jude, when he asked, on his bike riding. I often ran miles along side his bike when he dropped the training wheels to help him to gain confidence, listening to his requests for help. Eventually, he became a confident and accomplished cyclist, and did so at his own pace.

Jude's capable cycling is his accomplishment, and I couldn't be prouder. I am grateful that I took the time to step back and be his assistant.

Sometimes rigor is self-control that needs to be used in order to participate in the building of a foundation that lasts.

Day Twenty-Three of the Omer

Gevurah in Netzach - power and rigor in the creation of the long term.

We can easily imagine how creating something that lasts will require strength. The question is how to best apply that strength?

Strength in the long view needs to be consistent and flexible - when we plan past the five-year plan we need to tap into a different understanding of rigor, since we must be able to sustain it.

Find the strength that feels like a sequoia when thinking about eternity.

Day Sixteen of the Omer

Gevurah in Tiferet - strength and discipline in beauty.

This seems like an easily supported cultural pairing. The world today easily acknowledges the power, discipline, and strength, that support the core of publicly accepted people and objects of beauty.

In forging a life that aims at harmonious balance though, I often imagine myself using gentler qualities than strength. I think of my psyche as something that I am often too hard on, and therefore need to handle more carefully.

Accomplishing a beautiful and balanced result may take strength and discipline judiciously applied over a long time. Let us remember that the finest works are often crafted over decades, and not in mere minutes.

Day Fourteen of the Omer

Malchut in Gevurah - sovereignty, mastering the now, in power, strength, and discipline.

Getting something done with firmness and strength requires a realistic assessment of the needs for force.

In the moment, we often find ourselves rising to the occasion and thinking that taking the bull by the horns, moving something by force of will, will be effective. Our instinct is often to meet things head on.

So, being present and being thoughtful about the use of strength, is the task we face in the now. Mastery may mean a deep breath before a reaction. Effective agency, reacting in the present, requires careful and thoughtful application of our personal power.

Let us gain rule over our discipline.

Day Thirteen of the Omer

Yesod in Gevurah - a solid and balanced foundation in discipline and the exertion of power.

Keeping in mind solid footing before extending ourselves changes our outlook on strength itself.

When I think about this, even in an emotional and spiritual way, I still imagine it concretely in terms of taking steps on a mountain path, choosing a footing carefully. Or the idea of projecting strength through my arms and how different it is when I have to reach far. Firmly grounded, I am limited in the distance I can reach in strength, or step confidently.

With that image in mind, I get a different sense of the deeper nature of strength and discipline. Our strength depends not only on our stance, but also on where we stand. We depend on our connections to other sources of strength. True strength connects us to solid, balanced, support, and that often comes from outside sources.

Let us see our strength in the interconnections between us and all existence.

Day Ten of the Omer

Beautiful balance in strength and discipline.

Let us use this day to expand our internal images of strength and beauty. I believe we are assaulted by impossible to achieve ideas of these concepts. Let's work on updating our internal pictures of these ideals.

Beautiful balance - we seek it in relationships that mesh just right, sometimes only once in a while; we aim for it in the recognition of the faces of all ages and stages around us engaged in profound joy at existence.

Strength and discipline - found in the attention to our efforts that require regular attention; seen in the people around us who devote time and energy to difficult tasks and get them done even when others find them too difficult.

The Omer gives us the opportunity to reflect on the meanings of words that may have been overwhelmed by forces outside our control. Let us take back these definitions and use them well.

Day Nine of the Omer

Strength and power within itself.

Each week of the Omer Counting we encounter a day focused on a concept within the same concept. This might seem to be an overly abstract exercise, and I will do my best to make it relevant.

Often we get distracted by the scope of a task, project, or value. For example, in order to get faster as I runner trainers recommend intervals, and tempo runs, and distance runs. None of which will make a difference if I don't manage to move my feet more quickly.

At the heart of every value is not all the ways that we try to balance it, at the heart is the thing itself. How can we use strength and strictness best? Start with an understanding of its inherent value. Structure helps. Discipline helps. Strength is useful. As we contemplate this value, the full week, and all the weeks of the Oner, remind us that effective strength is only one aspect of any answer.

Day Eight of the Omer

We begin the second week of the Omer today, thinking about the idea of gevurah, or "power" and "strictness", and we start with chesed, the element of kindness and compassion in the realm of strictness.

While these ideas form the ends of a spectrum - often described at each end as mercy and justice - caring and rigidity are intertwined as well. We aim to begin every act of power, every assertion of will, with an understanding that it should be for a greater good, a vision that includes kindness.

As a teacher and a parent I often err on the side of a stricter voice, even though I know that I must lead with compassion and caring. When I keep that kinder tone in the center, the firmness needed comes across all the better.

Day 44 of the Omer - wise strength

Gevurah in Malchut - rigor and strength in the imminent and sovereign presence.

The application of strength with all of our values behind it requires force and restraint, power and a fine sense of where to apply it and how much.

As we look at a task that requires firmness let us always see it as needing appropriate levels of rigor, tempered and informed by all our other faculties too.

Be strong, and use our strength wisely.

Shavuot is coming!

Day 37 of the Omer - Rigor towards balance

Gevurah in Yesod - rigor and strength in solid balanced foundations.

While a foundation stands as a symbol of strength the idea of Gevurah as the application of discipline may inform us when we aim for creating foundations the fulfill their purposes.

To use rigor to help create balance requires care.

Still catching up - this applied to the Omer for Wednesday through Thursday.

Day 30 of the Omer - Discipline and humility

Gevurah in Hod - power and rigor in humility and smallness.

These seem tough to combine at first. Humility, even losing our selves in our powerlessness, may be a crutch. We need to exercise restraint.

Gevurah represents powerful restraint - a mindfulness of enough being enough since we aim to be mindful of moderation in all things, even in those we identify as virtues.

An excess of smallness may increase our sense of personal virtue, and may limit our abilities to take action.

Even our counting should be moderate!

discipline.jpg

Day 23 of the Omer - strength for the long haul

Gevurah in Netzach - rigorous strength in the long-term self.

Only by applying ourselves strategically can that strength last far into the future.

Starting with the long view we may also take into account how much discipline we might need, and work on apportioning it appropriately.

Looking far down the road let's keep in mind the strength it takes to go the distance.

Wishing you good counting on Day 23!

strength over time.jpg

Day 14 of the Omer - Strength in patience

Malchut in Gevurah - sovereignty, the manifestation, in strength.

How do we complete a strong action, make it real?

Acting strongly, moving with strength that is effective and real, requires just as much thought as any other type of effective action. To make strength real, we must invest ourselves in becoming strong, and using our strength wisely.

On this day of the Omer I will bide my time, and gather my strength. Sometimes, the best and most rigorous action may be acting with patience and deliberation.

Wishing all of you strength as we complete two weeks of the Omer.

Day 13 of the Omer

Yesod in Gevurah - a balanced foundation in strength and rigor.

We project strength only when we start with balance. We extend ourselves well when firmly supported in our roots and our steadiness.

This works physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, and among these four areas as well. Build our strength by starting with balanced building blocks of well-thought out ideas and thoroughly explored emotions, with carefully considered stepping stones and reflected upon insights.

From strong centers we can reach out givingly, reach inwards deeply, and craft connected and more whole selves that continually contribute to the world.

We have almost finished building our second week of the Omer. Enjoy the week to come!

Day 12 of the Omer

Hod in Gevurah - awe in our smallness, in power and rigor.

To recognize humbly the power that we wield often unknowingly brings greater wisdom to our actions. A small lack of consideration may have massive unknown negative impacts, and a small exercise of effort may make a difference far beyond our energy applied.

We can be easily humbled when we take note of the dramatic effect of a kindness offered to a stranger, or the outpouring of gratitude when we visit someone ailing or in need.

Adding a sense of awe to our own effect deepens our thoughts and actions.

Happy and thoughtful continued Omer Counting to all!