It was hot morning, and I had just done a significant amount of running, looping around a large neighborhood block that sat at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountain range just inside Malibu. I slowed, catching my breath and walked onto the dirt path that led to a secret hiking trail. I sat, lifting my heart to the sun, embracing its warmth.
This was my favorite meditation spot. The canyon air wafted over me as I began silently, in my head: “be still, and know that I am God…be still and know that I am…be still and know that… be still and know…be still…be…” building the sentence to its fullness once more. My spiritual director, Rabbi Sheryl Lewart, z’l had taught this mantra to me several months prior, in my work to find a deeper, more visceral connection to God and to Judaism as I searched for my calling in the world. I repeated this practice several times and then offered this intention: “God, please come and sit in my heart. I am open to You, I am open to the universe and all that it holds.” I held in my heart and mind the one question I came to, after two years of sorting and soul searching-“opera singer-cantor which road to travel?”
I breathed in and felt a tingling cover my entire body, down to my core. Within this sensation was a feeling of complete rightness and surety. It felt like a giant hug, like I was wrapped in God’s sukkat shalom. Enrobed with God’s presence, I found my place, I looked toward the diverging pathway and stepped into my calling.
The most difficult and important work I did as a student and still continue to do as a clergy person, was the work I did on my soul. I did not do this alone; I was blessed to have been connected to a Rabbi who was also a spiritual director. I was very hesitant at first to try spiritual direction. I was not sure what she was supposed to help me do or what I was supposed to learn. What I discovered was an incredible gift that has served me all along my journey. Cheryl gave me the gift of opening myself up to God. Engaging in this practice of spiritual direction became a center for me as I moved through cantorial school, continuing in the spiritual direction offered through HUC, and then continuing my practice as I became ordained and began my life here in Atlanta.
Over the past two years you have heard me talk about “this wonderful program where I am learning how to become a Jewish Spiritual Director.” I am sure a few are wondering still…what on earth is that?! Engaging in spiritual direction is “a process for exploring our connection with what we experience as God, Spirit, Truth-however we express and understand the Sacred in our lives.” This is one brief, very open interpretation of Jewish Spiritual Direction. There are many definitions, and I encourage you to look them up on the website noted in the footnote.
You might be thinking “how does this benefit me? What is the opportunity that cantor is bringing to TE?” Rabbi Jacob Staub explains very succinctly “the director serves as a companion…someone who helps you (sometimes with questions, sometimes just by listening) to [notice] the divine where you might have missed it and to integrate that awareness into your daily life…[in challenging and difficult moments as well as in joyful ones]” So, if you are searching for something deeper, or looking to find more meaning in everyday life, I can help you lift up those hidden and divine moments into awareness.
This fall, I will be teaching an introductory course about Jewish Spirituality and Jewish Spiritual Direction called “I’m not religious…I’m Spiritual (I think).” Our sessions will be an overview of some key components that comprise Jewish spirituality and the practice of engaging in spiritual direction. I will share some simple practices you can immediately use to nurture and deepen sacred awareness in your everyday life; and together we will lay the ground work for further explorations into Jewish Spiritual Life and the possibilities for our practice here at Temple Emanu-El. I cannot wait to share this significant dimension of myself and my connection to Judaism with each of you!
 Shelter of Peace
 Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevitt, http://www.sdiworld.org/find-a-spiritual-director/what-is-spiritual-direction/jewish-spiritual-direction
 Co-Director Bekhol Levavkha, HUC-JIR Jewish Spiritual Director training and certification program
 Rabbi Jacob Staub, Ibid.
 If you are interested in Jewish Spiritual Direction, please let me know!