I’m reposting this blog, written a handful of years back during my Passover in Cincinnati.  Heading there next week and since I was thinking about Cincinnati, Passover, Mom, etc, figured I’d post this one again…  Enjoy! Happy spring season!

Passover time last year – Berlin with Amy to work on her dance project (see blog: “March 2010”).  This year’s Passover time –  Cincinnati to celebrate my Mom’s 70th birthday.  What do these two have in common?  In both places, my Passover Seder took the form of a “Life Seder Plate” as I’m recognizing it now.  To me, that means that I didn’t get the chance to celebrate a traditional-style seder with the delicious vegan foods that I usually prepare with SF friends, acknowledging the significance of the items on the seder plate and why this night is different from all other nights.  I also didn’t get to celebrate with my family which I figured I would get to do.  Instead, like taking my yoga practice “off the mat, into the world” I took my seder event off the plate and into my Cincinnati experiences this last week.  And I’ll tell you, it was just as symbolic and meaningful, paralleling the story of a Vegan Passover as I see it:  a time for breakthroughs while intending greatest freedom and peace.

The Passover seder and week-long observance is one of my favorite Jewish traditions.  As kids, my brother and I were the ones who would bring the seder rituals home from school to share with our parents since our mom didn’t know them well, and our step-dad who was raised orthodox, had let go of much of his observances as he entered adulthood.  So it was very cool and affirming as kids to be in charge of this meaningful experience, to share with our parents what we’d learned as proud little students of Yavneh Hebrew Day School.  And it stands today that I still enjoy celebrating Passover with friends in SF, adding a contemporary focus.  I was excited to come back and have a seder with my family since we hadn’t celebrated for quite a long time, maybe since I’ve been in SF (14 1/2 years!!).  But they weren’t interested.  Wow.  That stopped me in my tracks.  I didn’t expect that!  Time to reel-in my expectations.  I got to be reminded that what might be important to me, may not be important for someone else.  What might sound like a cool idea to me, may sound completely off for someone else.

So do I want to impose my life on someone or be with peace?  And peace doesn’t mean giving up, it means acceptance.  It means being flexible, strong and loving.  So after feeling rejected and exasperated, I was able to feel grounded in compassion – it was possible that we could all agree on a nice way to spend time together.  They saw the Passover seder idea filled with stress and anxiety leading to possible arguments:  Me running around trying to get everything together perfectly, spending hours and hours for something they didn’t really feel connected to.  Probably mostly correct!  I got to move through my emotions in the way that I move through an asana practice in yoga.  One pose isn’t more important than another.  One pose moves gently from one to the other.  There is a flow and with the aid of breath, all connects together to equal one, balanced practice.  My clever mind wants to see separation and favoritism, this way not that way, stop here don’t go there.  But a refined self knows that all paths lead home.  There is no “right” or “wrong”, there just is.  “Going with the flow” to put it exactly.  I mean truthfully, it has launched a new way of thinking about a lot of experiences that I perceive as taking a particular form but maybe don’t need to!  Like my previous blog below from April 2, 2011 where I started talking about the “what” of life.  The “what” may not be the important thing, but the ‘what’s it about’ may have more significance.

Passover is about freedom.  It’s about making a journey, understanding that the journey is the growing space – and the destination, the beginning point of yet a new chapter.  It’s about honoring our history, our fellow life-companions (people, planet, animals, plants, and things) as well as ourselves.  It’s about going from what is perceived as a closed space to an open space.  Once a year in the Jewish tradition, we designate a time to talk specifically about the historical journey of the Jews who fled from Egypt and moved from being slaves to being free. As some modern seders will translate, we are also signaled to reflect on where we are today as a race, a culture, a nation, a community and as individuals.  At my seders through the last years, we would ask ourselves, “where do we feel enslaved?”  “What areas of life aren’t supporting us/ourselves personally?”  “Where do we feel held back?”  Sometimes we’d share out-loud, other times we would write.  Yes, a bit heavy over dinner but it would evolve gently during the seder portion of the evening, and evoke a space of humility, grace and connection.  I miss having this kind of seder.  But after this week in Cincinnati, I feel blessed to be able to shift perspective and accept the way the seder happened, versus how I wished for it to have happened; because the seder wasn’t celebrated in it’s formal form, I got this opportunity to take my seder practices off the plate, into the world!

Here’s what’s on the traditional seder plate with vegetarian/vegan options:

1. Shank bone or beet:  symbolizing the sacrificial lamb.  A beet is a contemporary option and there are several references on the internet to explain.  Click HERE for a cool, obscure one that I discovered which speaks about women in a 1945 concentration camp:   (scroll to the bottom for this story)
2. Bitter herbs/horseradish root:  symbolizing the bitter times of slavery.
3. Charoset (vegan – agave, molasses or fruit sweetener vs honey):  symbolizing the mortar used as slaves during the building of Egypt
4. Egg or new potato:  symbolizing the Earth and new beginnings
5. Parsley:  symbolizing the Spring season

Here’s what’s on the “Life Seder Plate” each corresponding to the numbers above:

1. Family and Old friends:  The shank bone or beet are also symbols of blood.  So I’m taking this symbol to connect blood to how we refer to family as a blood connection.  The life-sacrifices we have made for one another out of deepest love and care.
2. Painful and challenging life experiences:  The bitter times in life which are often some of our best teachers.  Also referencing those things that hold us back from being our clearest selves.
3. All the layers of consciousness and being:  Like the layers of brick and mortar that create a structure, our experiences become layered and bring light (but not define) who we are today.
4. The circle of life, death and rebirth:  There is a continuum that precedes this life and will follow the ending of this life – the law of nature, honoring that relationship vs trying to defy it.
5. New beginnings/Reconnecting with people, places and things:  Every moment offers the opportunity to grow, to begin anew and gain new insights and perspective.

The one “Passover” story from Cincinnati I primarily want to share here is my visit with my family – primarily with my Mom and Step-Dad, but also with my Father and Step-Mom.  I had one activity each day with my Mom and Step-Dad (whom I’ll call Dad from here out because he raised me from age 6 up and I call him Dad).  We had a museum visit, lunches and dinners together this past week – all fun times.  Except on the last day, where we had a rough time that launched the three of us into a tight, uncomfortable space, followed by a breakthrough.  My Dad shared of a story from 4 years back that involved someone I know well.  He’d been holding onto this story with great anger and resentment.  A lunch date that I helped set-up prompted him to share about it (I call this life dominos).  While I was giving an alternative view, away from the ugly picture he perceived full of intentional slandering and ill-will towards him, he made an insinuation that I didn’t respect him because I was defending this other person.  I could sense his anger and that he had something more to say, to say something directly to me.  I wanted him to go for it, say what he was feeling, so I asked, “what are you trying to say, just say it!”  And next came the outburst of anger.  He exploded and got some steam out that was years and years old.  He shared that he didn’t feel appreciated as a father, made accusations that I didn’t respect him or value what he did for me as a parent – from his money that bought the house I grew up in, that provided me with my own room, and how he provided me with food and clothing, etc.  Now, this wasn’t coming out of left-field, I’ve known through the years he felt insecure as a step-parent.  We’ve had family therapy, our own therapy, and other discussions.  Much of what comes of this returns back to his own childhood and feeling the absense of a father figure in his life.  But I didn’t know how present and powerful all of this was for him still.  Part of me just wanted to let him be in his funk and say I’m sorry he felt that way and leave.  That would be the impatient, selfish, tired part of me.  But thankfully, another part of me chose to share my feelings with him, to express my gratitude and love with him, to take this opportunity for our family to be totally frank and up front with each other with honesty and compassion.  I was ready for it because I started feeling there was a big pink elephant in the living room and it wasn’t about me being that big, gay pink elephant this time!  🙂  In some way, I knew that part of my coming out here was for this breakthrough to happen.  Where this goes, who knows.  At the very least, it helped him, my mom and me in that moment.  That’s all we have.

What could have been an awful goodbye after a nice week with my parents and the day after my Mom’s 70th birthday, turned out to be a beautiful gift.  My Dad got to share some deep-rooted pain and we all got to talk about it.  I was able to let go of plans with friends so that I could give my attention to my family, to my Dad’s feelings in that moment.  My Mom isn’t the controlling, out-spoken person that she was before her psychotic break a couple years back.  She’s much more subdued and even child-like in many ways and isn’t able to express her feelings as easily.  That’s heart-breaking and leading me to some further writing, but for now, I get that things are as they are for a reason for now, and its ok.  There’s nothing to fix so much as there’s lots to accept, breath with, be with and send love to.  As I describe that, I relate this action to what I experience while practicing asanas – accept, breath, be, send love.  While asanas are just one piece of the 8-limbs of yoga, it’s one that I’ve spent the greatest time with and therefore, the practice that I’m best able to reference.  I know that what I’m practicing is also expressed in the yoga sutras of Patanjali.  As I progress and practice those sutras further, I look forward to sharing more about those too.

The whole reason for making this trip was to celebrate my Mom’s 70th birthday.  I wanted to do something special for her and making this trip to be with her was the obvious start to that something.  I’m still coming to grips with all that has changed with her in the last couple of years, how the dynamic between her and my father has changed, and doing my best to listen for what’s needed for us, for our family.  I had hoped to have Stevebros come and be a part of this, but he isn’t in a place where he can manage it.  While being with my mom, she shared some of her pain, her sadness which moved her to tears.  I shared a few thoughts with her and it felt so good to hug her and bring comfort to what felt like a heavy heart.  One thing we came up with is that she needs to get out and interact with others on a more regular basis.  My Dad seems content to just be with my Mom.  But my Mom, who is no longer driving for safety reasons, needs the connection of others.  So I’m looking into chair yoga classes in particular, as well as other activities that she might enjoy.  I was happy to learn that she and my Dad are taking a couple of courses for folks 55 and over at Raymond Walters College.  Yay!  Keeping an active mind at any age is helpful and crucial for well-being.  The classes might be more suited for my Dad, but still great to engage my Mom’s mind.  So targeting on something for her that my Dad can join if he wants, would be great.

I’m grateful I had time with my Father and Step-Mom.  I wish that I could build a stronger bond with them, and always imagine that time will offer more opportunities for that.  So far, it’s pretty much just a once a year connection.  But I’m grateful for at least that.  My Step-Mom made a vegan lunch for me which was perfect – just like what I would make myself, followed by a bagful of teas and treats to take with me.  I talked stem-cell research and reviewed the situation in post-tsunami/earthquake in Japan with my scientist/doctor Father.  He’s got great insight and is personally invested in making this world a better and more creative place.  My Father is turning 75 this September.  I want to keep an eye on that and do something special. Not sure I’ll make a trip back, but certainly want to do something.  I don’t remember the last time I sent a card, so even that would be good.  For the first time I can remember, I felt the space to ask about Masao, my uncle, his brother who’s been living in L.A. for many years.  I’ve wanted to initiate a connection with him over the last couple of years, to reach out to him and I finally recognized that I was feeling emotionally ready.  He is bipolar and has struggled with this since moving to the U.S. years before I was born.  My father shared that Masao went back to Japan, that he found a program that would help him out there and is therefore no longer living in L.A.  Wild.  Just as I was ready to reach out and visit him on my  L.A. trips, I learn he’s recently moved to Japan.  This wouldn’t mean that contact is not possible, only that getting to see him would be unlikely.  I was given Masao as my middle name by my parents, and I feel a special connection with him even though I hardly know him (Marc Mukunda Masao Morozumi is the whole shabang!).  I’ve only met him once so far as I remember.  He was an artist (maybe still is of sorts).  Cool how that became part of my path too.

Coincidences are celestial alignments where we’re immersed in the sea of divine consciousness.  When we don’t perceive these things we call coincidences, we’re searching for meaning in life in our best ways possible.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend, Easter or otherwise.  Another blog to follow with a few more Cincinnati experiences – including jumping on a trampoline with Melissa and Tim’s kids, visiting Cincinnati’s hippest urban, green general store, “park + vine” and reconnecting with owner and friend Dan from my Urban Planning and Design days to yoga with Donna.  “Where is Love/Where is Home?” blog coming up soon…

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