Thursday, November 28, 2013


Tonight at the Thanksgiving dinner table my 6 year old said that he was thankful for Sunday School. This brought a round of groans of despair from my 10 year old, not being so fond of the institution.   Joel went on to defend Sunday school and the synagogue saying "that without it how would we know about being jewish and all". 

In this same direction, In honor of Hanukah, my father sent out some thoughts about what this holiday means to him.   I would like to share with you on my blog.  With his permission here is a re-print of what this holiday means to him and the history of my family.

Last weekend I discussed with my 11 year old grandson what the holiday means to me and, I became quite emotional about that contemplation. So I decided to try and understand why I was feeling that way. Here is the story. 

I am not a religious person and my absence from synagogue for the high holidays did not bother me emotionally. My semi-traditional adherence to Jewish customs is occasionally circumvented with a delicious back-bacon sandwich at the Market. So, I was quite surprised that I started to have a verystrong reaction to having a traditional Hanukah celebration this year.

I think it was the word, Maccabees that triggered my feelings. I mentioned to my grandson that to me, Hanukah was a celebration of a small Israeli tribe led by Yehudah the Maccabee defeating the Greek army and regaining their land and reoccupying their temple, that was the symbol of their tribes existence. A small battle 2176 years ago seemed to have an emotional significance for me, and I have now been able to understand better why.

I was born in Scotland in 1938. For the first seven years of my life, I existed in the turmoil of the Second World War. I didnt understand what was going on, but certain issues lodged themselves in my memory. One of these was the organization that my father belonged to and was very active in, that Jewish organization was called the Maccabeem. The Maccabeem was a Jewish sports-social club that focused on health and fitness and self-reliance, rather than prayer and traditional Jewish pursuits. The Maccabeem was closely tied to the Israeli Zionist movement and their original pledge was I think something like, We shall overcome through strength. All through my childhood, I must have been exposed to Hanukah where my father, his brothers and any others all compared the feats of the ancient Maccabeem with their world.

At the end of World War II, when the scope of the Holocaust became common knowledge, six million people killed because they were affiliated with the Jewish religion. The motto of the Scottish social club, The Maccabeem, changed to add, Never Again to the original We shall overcome through strength. My father was so dedicated to this cause that he immigrated to Israel to assist in fighting in the War of Independence. Shortly thereafter my mother and the three children joined him there. My father gave up a thriving furniture manufacturing business and much more to follow in the footsteps of the Maccabee. By that time, I was eleven, my grandsonscurrent age, and I did not really understand the depth of my fathers commitment or my mothers willingness to leave behind a large family (nine brothers and sisters and their offsprings) and all her world that she knew to follow the spirits of the Maccabee.

I remember when the Israeli government put in place the Jewish Olympics and called it the Maccabiah. My father, who was still active in the movement in Israel, arranged for me, I believe I must have been14 or 15, to receive the Torch that was carried by athletes to the stadium in Ramat- Gan and to make two loops of the stadium carrying the torch before passing it on to a wounded veteran to complete the final loop and to light the Eternal Light.

Somewhere inside me, this sequence of events has lain dormant until this year when I mentioned to my grandson that Hanukah was about the deeds of the Maccabeem more than a religious event.  

Reality caught up with my parents in Israel, and inability to earn a living, led to our eventual relocation to Canada and to my existence here.

So, it is surprising how a single word or two can trigger emotional feelings and memories long buried.

None of you have experienced this existence, but in honour of the Maccabeem, the beliefs and actions of my father, and the festival of Hanukah, I am passing on my feelings and recollections.

Chaim ben Aria

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It is time to change my record.

Guilt busting. Saying No.  It all comes down to having the courage to stand your ground.  Where does this courage come from?   Many sources bring about such courage. The one that I have been working with is the internal courage.  Most of us have a recording running in our heads with things or mantras we repeat about yourselves.  Maybe we are not tall enough, cute enough, thin enough, brave enough.  We are often our worst critics.  This message is often subconscious and can be the accumulation of years of baggage, relationships, head trips etc..  This recording is ruthless, strong and well dug in. 

Often when I am on the mat I will be looking at my self in the mirror and the recording will play.  The posses and the yoga clothing are not the most flattering gear for someone of my size and shape.  Maybe they would work under a moo-moo or something but not by themselves. So I end up berating myself subconsciously without even knowing it.   I will be working on a poss and all I may be thinking is belly... belly... bellyyyyyyy.  

So one of the steps in guilt busing is changing the recording in your head.  For the last three yoga classes I have intentionally been working on changing this message one occurrence at a time.   The first class was rather hard.  Not only did I focus on stopping the message, but on re-writing it in a much more favorable direction.   Each time I became aware of the old recording I would give myself props for being there, working hard, listening to my body, and loving myself.  Each time as I would become aware of the message I would purposely assess the situation and give myself credit for being present.  

At the end of the practice I felt like I had done a mental practice as well as a physical one, exhausting and positive.   I was not sure if this was something that would get easier or would be a constant battle.  The next class it came a little easier with less negative messages being produced.  It was a little easier to re-direct. 

Today's class was the third since I started this re-writing of my internal record.  I was much less distracted by the process.  I did not have to think about it and found myself much more proud of me.  The new record of power, strength, accomplishment, and love was playing in the background. I am not saying it was the only record, but it did get some air play.  

This record has been playing for a long long time but as my dad once said "Time is going to pass anyway."  Why not make this time work towards peace of mind, courage and self love.  I hope from this will come an inner core that is strong, brave and powerful.  Join me in this quest next time you are on the mat. 

Namaste... peace out.