Only s/he who thinks and acts creatively, lives.
—Friedrich Hundertwasser
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For you, silence is praise.

The transformation I'm experiencing is impossible to put into words.

If I had only visited Poland for the first time, the homeland of my mother's ancestors, there would be a lot to say....

Had I only plunged into training in the Way of Council, there would be a lot to share....

Meeting and meditating with over 100 pilgrims from around the world is a gift to share as well.

And to meet the place, the teacher of Auschwitz-Birkenau... is truly beyond words.

But I need to connect.

Firstly, to let you know I'm home safely, soundly, profoundly moved and improved. I know this medicine has a time-release component to it. There will be many stories and insights to share; in their due time.

I'm so grateful for you. It's these friendships, relationships and ongoing conversations that give me perspective and meaning and support and comfort and conviction to continue to explore, grow and create. You literally make this all possible. Thank you.

Some highlights.

On my way to Kraków, I chose a layover in Vienna, Austria; the airport is only 16 minutes from downtown. I took a short afternoon visit to the town where my father's ancestors once lived and to pilgrimage to the work of a new/old friend — master painter, architect and philosopher Friedrich Hundertwasser. Seeing this man's work in person opened my heart and mind in new ways; he became one of my Teachers. The coffee served in a cup and saucer on a silver tray at his KunstHausWien Museum reminded me of my grandmother's old world elegance.
These artworks are living
I continued onto Poland and checked into our hotel right near Rynek Główny, the ancient and vast Main Square of Kraków. I had about an hour to settle in, change some currency, then walk to Cafe Młynek in the old Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz where I led a short and sweet Kabbalat Shabbat with my new sister, Yiddish singer Marsha Gildin. The food and company were incredible, but I was exhausted and vowed to leave before the Klezmer concert began. But then, the Magda Brudzińska Klezmer Trio walked in. Seriously exceptional.
Mindblowingly talented young Poles playing Galician klezmer (Video | SoundCloud)
Our training began Saturday. The Center for Council's compassionate and wise Director Jared Seide guided us masterfully and gently into this deep and transformative practice, which has been developed by Joan Halifax, Jack Zimmerman and Gigi Coyle and others over the past two decades. It's potential to transform cultures towards healing is recently being embraced on a large scale by the California prison system. Watch this nine-minute video to get a sense of the power of council.
Sunday we returned to Kazimeirz for a guided walking tour of old Jewish Kraków. I led some prayers in the synagogue of the Rema. We sang Shlomo Carlebach's Kraków Niggun at the fragment of the wall of the ghetto; it was Reb Shlomo's twentieth yahrtzeit. Schindler's Factory Museum drives the story home. There is so much left in the little that remains.
Buses took us to Oświęcim, the town formerly called Ushpitzin in Yiddish and Auschwitz in German, early on Monday morning. Following the first tenet of the Zen Peacemaker's Order of Not-Knowing, I really went into there retreat having done no research, no homework. The first most surprising details: Auschwitz was much smaller that I'd imagined; Birkenau was exceedingly vast; and both sites are very busy with tour groups.

I want to urge you to register for the 2015 Bearing Witness at Auschwitz-Birkenau retreat now. I will be there. Dozens of other spirit-holders will be there, guiding a brilliantly crafted encounter with one of the most important places in modern human history. The place is a teacher and if you have even the smallest inkling to join, I unflinchingly encourage you to go. 

Going into the retreat without preconceived notions was an incredible gift. It makes me want to stop writing now, and to again encourage you to register. There are already 45 people signed-up for 2015 and the retreat will be capped at 120.
Register for the 2015 Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau
I also want to bring you attention to a new ZPO Bearing Witness retreat this August 10-15: Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in the Black Hills. The five-day program will consist of daily sharing councils (facilitated sharing of individual’s experience in small groups), talks by Native American elders, spiritual leaders and educators to elucidate the background, history and results (as evidenced by current conditions) of colonization particularly as experienced by the Lakota / Dakota.

Let's sing together: December 12, 2014

I led Kabbalat Shabbat at the end of the retreat and did it almost exclusively with wordless melodies (niggunim), including a song I heard in my heart consistently while walking throughout Birkenau.

I am so looking forward to planting the seeds of a new community here in Ulster county. If this is something you'd like to support there are opportunities for one-time or monthly tax-deductible gifts.

“What should young people do with their lives today…? The most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

—Kurt Vonnegut
Kol Ḥai means "all life." Our intention is to connect with the unique vitality within ourselves, each other, and the world we live in. 

We will sing, meditate, laugh and celebrate as we welcome Shabbat together.

Our first gathering will be held Friday evening, December 12, 2014, at 7:00 pm in the Historic Huguenot District of downtown New Paltz, NY. Learn more.

ALL are welcome. Please help to spread the word.

An opportunity for silence and praise

The Elat Chayyim Meditation Retreat
Dec 21 - 28, 2014 

Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT

Register now

Join us on a supported journey to greater understanding and intimacy with life itself with Rabbi Jay Michaelson, Beth Resnick-Folk, Rabbi Naomi Mara Hyman, and Shir Yaakov Feit
Copyright © 2014 Shir Yaakov, All rights reserved.

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