anxiety

woman meditation imageHave you heard about Meditation and Mindfulness?  

Want to learn more about it?

Learn how to focus your attention, access a sense of calm and balance, lower your level of stress, improve your health, and harness your true inner strength and resilience . . . here’s how

 

Join 2bpresent this fall to learn about the incredible benefits of establishing your own personal meditation practice.  This fall 2bpresent is offering new courses and workshops for beginning and experienced meditators.  To learn more and to register, click on the links below.

What students are saying about our classes and workshops . . .

SWG_1544_©Sandra_Wong_Geroux (1)“This was a fantastic course. (On a scale of 1 – 5 ) I would rate it a 6. Everybody in the class
seem to have a great time – Cheryl was knowledgeable and generous. I would highly recommend this to any of my friends and would take future courses offered by Cheryl!”  – student, Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation

“Just a quick note to thank you so much for being such a wonderful instructor.  I am enjoying your class so much, and I really love practicing being mindful.  I am trying hard to be present in every moment, and am filled with gratitude that I signed up for the class.  It’s been great, and I’m looking forward to what comes next!” – Rosemary, Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation course, 4/12/16

“Your classes are helping refocus my mind from the chronic pain and anger I have been carrying for over 7 yrs . It will be a long process to let go but I know I need to. I took your advice and walked ‘the loop’ around the water today with my dog.   There are hundreds of daffodils in bloom that some generous soul planted years ago, I saw a sweet rabbit and listened to the birds.  So enjoyable.   Many thanks.” – Barbara, Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation course, 4/07/16

 

New Fall Classes

Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness can help you lower your levels of stress, stay focused and calm, and live your life with a greater sense of ease and happiness.  This course integrates research-based material from the fields of Neuroscience, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, and Positive Psychology, as well as Eastern Philosophy and Practices, to introduce individuals to the physical, emotional and psychological benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation. These benefits include decreased stress and the physical symptoms of stress on the body, Increased focus and concentration, and improved sleep.   Each week, we will learn and practice formal and informal mindfulness practices that will help quiet the mind, bring increased focus to our daily activities, cultivate greater happiness and improve overall health and wellbeing.   Friday mornings, 9:30 am to 10:30 am, from 10/07/16 to 11/18/16.

For more information and to register, CLICK HERE.

 

New Fall Workshops

What is Mindfulness & Meditation?  

man-meditatingMindfulness & Meditation.  These words are everywhere, but what do they actually mean? How can we use mindfulness meditation to lower stress, sharpen our focus and attention, and cultivate greater happiness?  Join Cheryl Vigder Brause, Executive Director of 2bpresent, to learn more about mindfulness and meditation in this interactive workshop in which we will explore the growing body of scientific evidence from the fields of mindfulness, neuroscience and positive psychology and learn practical mindfulness tools to help us relax, have greater focus and find your inner quiet, calm and strength.  Tuesday, October 27, 2016, 7 pm.  For more information and to register, CLICK HERE.

 

Unleashing the Power of Creativity Through Meditation 

Learn how to use meditation to access a free flow of thoughts and tap in to your greatest creativity.  Join Cheryl Vigder Brause, Executive Director of 2bpresent, to learn more about mindfulness and meditation in this interactive workshop in which we will explore meditation practices to help you problem-solve, find creative solutions and access new and innovative ideas.  Tuesday, October 18, 2016, 7 pm.   For more information and to register, CLICK HERE.

 

Stressed Out? Learn Ways to Lower Your Stress and Find Calm and Clarity for a More Productive and Healthy life. meditation_at_work image

The long-term health affects of chronic stress on your body are severe. Learn why our bodies react the way they do and how you
can change your thoughts and behavior through mindfulness meditation practices to lower your levels of stress at work and at home, find greater calm and a healthier lifestyle. 
Join Cheryl Vigder Brause, Executive Director of 2bpresent, in this interactive workshop in which we will explore the growing body of scientific evidence from the fields of mindfulness, neuroscience and positive psychology and learn practical tools on how to use mindfulness to help us relax and navigate the stresses of our busy lives.  Tuesday, November 8, 2016, 7 pm.   For more information and to register, CLICK HERE.

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When I asked a group of children recently what they thought mindfulness meant, one young girl replied, “It means that our minds are full.” I then asked, “What are your minds full of?” She replied, “Thoughts. Lots of thoughts. I always have thoughts running around my head.” The other children in the class agreed. Intrigued, I asked, “What are the thoughts you have running around in your head?” One by one they answered. “Worries. I am always worrying,” said one boy as others nodded their heads in agreement. “I am always thinking about all the homework I have and about how I am going to get it all done,” said a wide-eyed girl with a look of frustration on her face. “Me too!” said her neighbor on the carpet.

What occupies your mind?

When we take a good look at what occupies our minds, we start to notice that much of what we are thinking about  is not actually happening right now. Most of our mental gymnastics involve thoughts about what has already happened or thoughts (and worries) about what might happen. Studies have shown that we spend at least fifty percent of our time thinking about things that are not actually happening at all, and most of those thoughts are unpleasant. In addition, we often tell ourselves stories about what is happening that simply are not true.

An example . . . we text a friend and she does not respond.  While waiting for her response, we begin to worry.  She always answers quickly, we think.  Why hasn’t she responded?  Is she OK?   Should I call a friend to check on her? Was there something I did to offend her?  Is she mad at me?  What could I have possibly done?  Then, we plan what we will say when she finally does call.  We spend time and energy creating stories in our minds, and creating nervousness and anxiety that we can feel in our bodies.  Finally, a response.  She is fine.  Her phone had died.

Despite the children’s confusion between “mind fullness” and “mindfulness,” the word mindfulness really means awareness. The goal of mindfulness is not to get rid of thoughts. We are human and humans have thoughts. In fact, many thoughts can be quite helpful, necessary and pleasant.  We need to plan, to create, to organize.  The evolution of our ability to think has helped us evolve and adapt to our environment and to survive.  However, the evolution of our thoughts may have evolved to a point of becoming unhelpful and even detrimental to our wellbeing.

Can our thoughts actually make us sick?

The beauty of mindfulness is that it helps us become aware of our thoughts and begin to recognize our thoughts for what they are – just thoughts.   Without this awareness, we consider our thoughts to be facts, they become our reality. We even identify personally with our thoughts and think we are our thoughts.   We often get so caught up in our thoughts, overwhelmed by them, believing them to be true, that we suffer the physiological consequences often caused by our thoughts, chronic stress and anxiety, and all of the serious, negative effects stress has on our bodies, which can literally make us sick.  The amazing thing to realize is that thoughts are not real and the stress that often accompanies them is unnecessary.

Thoughts are just thoughts.  You don’t have to believe them.

Mindfulness helps us create a space between our thoughts and ourselves. We can begin to see our thoughts for what they are – just thoughts – not who we are and not what is actually happening. This awareness helps us to stop putting ourselves through an imaginary obstacle course in our minds.  We can begin to quiet the noise in our heads, no longer feeling overwhelmed by all those thoughts.

Many who begin to practice mindfulness meditation try to silence their thoughts and quickly realize that this is a futile exercise. Thoughts just arise. The more we try to stop them, the more frustrated we get. Instead, in mindfulness practices we learn to simply observe our thoughts as they come and go, and not allow our thoughts to take over.

Our thoughts are just a lens through which we see the world.   They are the product of our life experiences. We can begin to understand that we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. Once we recognize this, we are free from the power our thoughts have over us.  We can observe our thoughts and better understand which thoughts are helpful and which thoughts do not serve any useful purpose.  Only then can we truly free ourselves from our thoughts.  We simply learn to observe them.

Listen to your thoughts, but don’t take them so seriously.

It is incredibly liberating and freeing to recognize that in every moment of every day we have a choice. We can choose how we wish to see the world. By taking a step back and simply observing what is going on in our minds, we can begin to detach from the grip of our thoughts. We can see our thoughts, but we no longer have to believe them.   Then, we become more aware of what is actually happening, as it is happening, and be more present for it.

 

Try this at home:  Mindfulness of Thoughts

Take a few minutes during your day and begin to notice your thoughts.  Here is how:

  1. Ask yourself, “What am I thinking about?”
  2. Once you begin to notice your thoughts, try labeling them: planning, worrying, organizing, day dreaming, judging, etc.
  3. Then, ask yourself, “Is this actually happening right now?”  Begin to notice throughout your day when you are fully present with what is actually happening and when your mind takes you somewhere else.  The first step in raising your awareness and becoming more present is to begin noticing your mental habits.  Notice when your mind drifts off in thought, taking you into the past or the future.
  4. Don’t judge yourself or label your thoughts as good or bad.  Instead, just be curious and more self-aware.

 

 

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All New 2bp TV !

by cheryl on October 1, 2015

in 2bp TV, Classes, Events, Events and Classes

Announcing 2bpresent’s All New You Tube Channel!

 

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We are thrilled to announce our new You Tube Channel!  In the coming months, we will continue to add new videos explaining the science of mindfulness, the “How To’s” of integrating mindfulness into your life, Mindfulness for Children, and lots of new Guided Meditations and Videos to help you lower stress, improve your focus and concentration, overcome test anxiety, get a better night’s sleep, prepare for that big game, and so much more!  Be sure to sign on to our newsletter to get updates on what’s new and subscribe to 2bp TV.

 

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How Meditation Can Change Your Brain

How Meditation Can Change Your Brain

by cheryl on December 6, 2014

in Healthy Living

Over the last ten years, researchers and scientists have been uncovering the physiological benefits of meditation on the brain and the body, benefits that practitioners have understood for thousands of years and western scientists are now proving.  This research quantifies and scientifically demonstrates the amazing benefits of meditation practices that can improve our overall health and well-being.

A new Harvard study using MRIs shows that meditation literally builds the brain’s gray matter.  In this study, researchers found that daily mindfulness practices resulted in a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection, and those same practices decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.  In the November 2014 issue of Scientific American, entitled The Neuroscience of Meditation – How it Changes the Brain, Boosting Focus and Easing Stress,  researchers also found that experienced meditators had a greater volume of brain tissue in their prefrontal cortex and insula, which both play a role in executive functioning and decision making, as well as processing attention, sensory information and internal bodily sensations.

Not only does meditation affect the brain, it may also play a crucial role in our overall health.   Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies, and found that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.  (Click here for more information on this study)   In addition, scientists have found evidence that meditation and its positive psychological effects boost immunity, and reduce inflammation and other signs of stress in the body, even those occurring on a molecular level.  A recent study at UCLA – Davis looked at the effect meditation practices have in the body on a molecular level.  The enzyme telomerase is associated with the long-term health of cells in the body.  Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that tend to get shorter every time a cell divides. When telomeres drop below a critical length, the cell can no longer divide properly and eventually dies.  One of the central mechanisms responsible for the aging of cells is the shortening of telomeres. The enzyme, telomerase, can rebuild and lengthen telomeres.   Researchers found that experienced meditators, those showing the least physiological signs of stress on the body,  also had higher “telomerase” activity, suggesting that mindfulness meditation training might actually slow down the process of cellular aging and improve our overall health on a cellular level.

This research is welcome and fascinating, and we love to learn about the science and share it with you.  We look forward to more research to come, but for those who practice mindfulness meditation, we don’t need to be convinced, we already feel the great benefits of these ancient contemplative practices.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

by cheryl on October 22, 2013

in Meditation

Happiness is a big topic these days.  There are many happiness blogs and books that explore how we can achieve greater happiness in our lives.  The emerging field of Positive Psychology, the study of happiness, has produced a large body of scientific research that helps us understand how we can be happier.  Major universities, like the University of Pennsylvania, have their own Positive Psychology departments that conduct research on what makes happy people happy.  Dr. Martin Seligman, thought to be the father of Positive Psychology, heads the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  Where traditionally the field of Psychology focuses on mental illness or psychological problems and how to treat them, Dr. Seligman and his peers examine how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.  So, why is happiness such a “hot” topic these days? Research on the mental health and wellbeing of Americans may shed some light on the answer.

Statistics show that anxiety and depression affect many Americans and that those numbers are growing.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in our country, affecting over forty million adults in the United States (18% of U.S. population).   An estimated one in ten adults reports being depressed.  In addition, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children in the United States and rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past fifty years. Today, five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or an anxiety disorder when compared to half a century ago.  These statistics suggest that in the United States, a country in which we have greater material wealth and individual freedom than most other countries in the world, we are increasingly unhappy.

So, why aren’t we happier?

Perhaps it is because we live in a culture where we never feel that we have enough, or that we are enough.  We are always looking to get more, be more, have more.  Our culture values extreme individualism and ambition as characteristics needed to achieve success, creating a culture in which the fear of failure runs rampant.   In such a culture, we think that happiness is conditional upon our achievements.  Although our goals are often quite concrete (being promoted at work, buying a new car, moving to a bigger house, winning a race, making a team, getting into an ivy league school, fighting for social justice), if we press further in our investigation, we will usually find that our ultimate goal is simply to be happy.  As Tal Ben-Shahar, Harvard Professor and author of several books on Positive Psychology explains, “Wealth, fame, admiration and all other goals are subordinate and secondary to happiness; whether our desires are material or social, they are means toward one end: happiness.”

What the research shows is that the attainment of a particular goal to achieve greater happiness is misguided.  The  achievement of our goals may bring temporary joy, but it does not impact our overall level of  happiness.  For example, studies of both lottery winners and people who have been paralyzed reveal that people return to their same level of happiness (or unhappiness as the case may be) one year after the event.  Our projected happiness (or unhappiness) after certain events is not what we actually experience.  We have all experienced a situation where we work very hard to achieve a goal, are overjoyed in accomplishing that goal, only to emerge a short time after our goal is met asking ourselves, “What’s next?”  We quickly realize that the happiness we felt after achieving that goal was merely temporary.  We may even feel depressed when we realize that the achievement of our much-anticipated goal did not bring us the lasting happiness we desire.

So, how can we be happier?

Research suggests that 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetics, traits we are born with such as temperament.  The good news is this leaves us with 50% to work with.  Many researchers are looking at the effects of mindfulness practices and other cognitive exercises that can help us shape our reactivity and perceptions of ourselves and the world we live in.  In other words, instead of looking externally at what we can accomplish next, what we lack and what we want to gain so that we can be happier, we can change our perception of who we are, what we want and how we react to our circumstances.

This pursuit of happiness is what Sharon Salzberg explores in her book Real Happiness.  She explains,  “Because the development of inner calm & energy happens completely within and isn’t dependent on another person or a particular situation, we begin to feel a resourcefulness and independence that is quite beautiful—and a huge relief.”   In the practice of mindfulness meditation, Salzberg teaches people to look inside themselves in moments of quiet and accept things as they are.   Those quiet moments help us to connect to our own inner strength, our compassion for ourselves and for others, and our ability to ride the tides of our own emotions.  These qualities, which we all possess, can be fostered and strengthened simply by recognizing that they are already there.

Once we take the time to reconnect to who we really are, value our inner strengths and find a sense of peace and contentment in ourselves as we are, we are able to feel more happiness in our lives.  We can foster our own feelings of optimism and gratitude, which will enhance our sense of well-being.   With this new perspective, it is not the achievement of goals in which we seek to attain happiness; we already have a sense of happiness along the way as we pursue our goals.  The relationship between happiness and success is reciprocal – not only can success contribute to happiness, but happiness also leads to success.

 

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Are you feeling tired, a lack of focus and concentration and out of patience?   Do you want to learn ways to slow down, clam down and find a greater sense of balance and happiness in your  life?

Join us for Mindful Living: An Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation

We will explore  meditation and mindfulness practices that can be used everyday to help bring calm, clarity, connections and contentment into your daily life.  Each class will consist of a discussion and practice.

Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation include:

  • Increasing your attention, focus and concentration
  • Understanding your own stress reactions and how to minimize them
  • Increasing your sense of balance and equanimity
  • Fostering a greater connection in your relationships
  • Enriched appreciation of the ordinary moments of life
  • Learning to listen with kindness to yourself and those around you
  • Improved sleep

Class Dates & Times:  Tuesday evenings, November 19, 26, December 3  and 10, from 8 to 9:30 pm.

Location:  Westchester Jewish Center, Rockland & Palmer Avenue, Mamaroneck, New York.

Investment:  $140 members and $160 non-members

*This class is a prerequisite for classes we will be offering in 2014 on Meditation and Spirituality.

**Registration opening soon for this class.

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Weekly Wisdom #20

by cheryl on December 6, 2012

in Uncategorized, Weekly Wisdom

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

– Chinese Proverb

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The Art of Letting Go

The Art of Letting Go

by cheryl on December 6, 2012

in Meditation

As the New Year approaches, we begin to look back at the year that has passed and consider all that we experienced.  We think about our New Year’s resolutions and set our intentions for the year to come.  Looking at the past, we often want certain things to be different or better in the New Year and we strategize to change our lives by doing something differently. This year, try adding to your resolutions for 2013, the practice of letting go.

There is so much to be gained from learning to let go.  How can I gain something from letting something go, you may ask?  Read on and you will see that the rewards of letting go can be life changing.

There is so much that we hold onto in our lives that cause us pain and suffering.  We cling to our desires and our expectations, and when those desires are not satisfied, and those expectations are not met, we suffer.  We want things to be a certain way, and when life does not unfold as we had hoped, we are sad, angry, disappointed or depressed.   We often resist what is actually happening because it is not what we want to be happening, and we suffer through it.

We can eliminate so much of our negative emotions and experience greater joy in our lives, if we practice the art of letting go.  By analogy, we can look at our own bodies.   We hold a tremendous amount of tension in our bodies, often in our necks, backs, and shoulders.   Many of us aren’t even aware we are physically tense until we begin to feel severe aches and pains in our bodies.  Yet, often unknowingly we are clenching our muscles in response to stress.  Once our attention is drawn to those areas, we recognize the tension.  After becoming aware of where we are holding this tension, we can work on releasing it.   By letting go of our tension, we can literally move through life with greater ease and less pain.   In much the same way, we cling emotionally to so much that causes us great pain.   It is the art of letting go that can bring us tremendous relief and offer us the opportunity to move through life with greater ease.

So what do we need to let go of?  This is often the most challenging part of this exercise because we need to look deep within ourselves to understand what we are truly experiencing.  Here are a few of the big things we can look at in our own lives and ask ourselves, “How is this serving me?”  If it is not serving you in any positive way, then let it go.

Letting go of Expectations

A common source of emotional pain and suffering occurs when our expectations are not met.  We may feel great disappointment, sadness or anger when colleagues, friends or relatives do not act in a way that we had hoped they would act.  Perhaps we are not getting the support that we need from someone.  Or, we do not have the kind of relationship that we had hoped for. Or, we simply think someone in our lives is a very difficult or challenging person (we may use other words to describe that person, but I will stick with these).   It is important to remember that this is not about who is right and who is wrong.  There is no judgment in this exercise.  The goal is to recognize that what we are getting (or not getting) from someone is not what we want.  Since we cannot force others to act in a way that meets our expectations, the best path to alleviate this emotional pain is by simply letting go of those expectations, and accepting what is.  Once we let go of our expectations, it is remarkable how a relationship can change.  By releasing the grip of our attachments to our expectations, we open ourselves up to new possibilities for connection.

We place some of our greatest expectations on ourselves.  In our culture, we strive for perfection in the way we look, in our lifestyles, in our own behavior and in our children.  We set incredibly high standards and feel disappointment when we fail to meet those lofty goals.  Yet, as Anna Quindlen so beautifully said, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work on becoming yourself.”

As parents, we also need to take a close look at the expectations we set for our children.  Are they realistic?  Are we ignoring our children’s needs and their individuality when we place certain expectations on them?  Sometimes we need to let those expectations go in order to let our children flourish and grow on their own terms and in their own way, rather than imposing on them our own desires and wishes for who we want them to be.  Once we learn to look at them through an unfiltered lens, void of the distortion of our own expectations, we may be better able to see the incredible people that they are.

Letting Go and the Art of Forgiveness

The ability to forgive is one of the greatest acts of letting go.   Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”  Clinging to unhealthy emotions, like resentment, is a self-destructive behavior that does not serve you.  On the contrary, clinging to resentment will only cause you tremendous pain and suffering.   It is extremely difficult to forgive others when they have wronged you or someone you love, but holding on to deep resentment or hatred will do nothing to your “enemy” but will do great harm to you.  Can you identify a person who you are unable to forgive? Can you think of an event that continues to trigger negative emotions?  How is that serving you?   How would it feel to simply let that go?

The BIG One – Letting go of Fear

Most stress and anxiety is deeply rooted in fear.  We may not always realize this, but if we dig deep enough, we will find fear at the base of almost all stress and anxiety.  We are afraid of being alone.  We are afraid of not being loved.  We are afraid of failure.  We are afraid that our children will fail.  Our ultimate fear, of course, is the fear of death.  These fears cause us sleepless nights, stressful days, and lots of running around trying to prevent these things from happening.

Again, we must ask ourselves, “How is this serving me?”   Will it prevent me from being alone?  Will it help me to be loved?  Will it prevent me or my children from experiencing failure?  And, the big question, will fear prevent me from dying?  We all know the answers to these questions, and yet, we continue to live with stress and anxiety that stems from our fears.

It is important to remember that fear is a perfectly normal feeling.  However, when fear causes great stress and anxiety in our daily lives, which leads to sleepless nights and our inability to experience happiness in our days, then it is important to practice the art of letting go.

I experienced a profound moment of letting go in my early twenties on an airplane at 10,000 feet above the earth.  I was traveling for work when the airplane began to bounce through the air as we experienced quite a bit of turbulence.  I panicked.  I clenched the armrests, and began to envision the plane plummeting downward.  I was petrified, alone, fearing the worst possible outcome.  And then it happened.  I recognized that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to help the airplane land safely.  I was aware that my fear was causing my heart to race, my breathing to speed up, and my hands to feel numb as I continued to envision my impending doom.   Yet, I also recognized that my fear was not serving me.  I was suffering.  So, I made the conscious choice to let go.  In some ways I opened my heart to what was happening and accepted it as it was.  I took a deep breath, picked up my magazine, assured myself that it would be all right and I began to read, choosing very specifically not to allow my thoughts to be consumed by fear.

 

Letting go can be an extremely difficult thing to do.  However, by releasing the strong grip of fear, resentment or expectations, we can experience tremendous freedom and open ourselves up to new possibilities.  We have the incredible power to let go.  By letting go, we can free ourselves to experience life with much greater ease and much less pain.  So, this New Years Eve, I invite you to consider the possibility of letting go of those things in your life that are not serving you.  In doing so, you will find greater peace and ease in the year to come.

 

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A Meditation for the Holiday Season

A Much-Needed Holiday Stress-Reducing Meditation November 20, 2012

Why is it that during this joyful, festive time of year so many people are feeling anxious, depressed or depleted?  All that gift giving and holiday cheer  can be exhausting.  There is pressure to be happy and full of joy.   So when we don’t feel like being in the holiday spirit (or we may […]

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The Calm Before the Storm

The Calm Before the Storm November 8, 2012

Just before Superstorm Sandy hit our area, in what was the calm before the storm, I attended a beautiful service in which the following thoughts were read aloud by Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman.  I was struck by the beauty of his words and wanted to share his thoughts with you.  We are sending our love and […]

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