Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jewish. Yogi. Doula.

Allow me to introduce myself...
Cross posted at: Kveller

I grew up in a fairly complicated and very secular latchkey home with Hanukkah bushes, Chinese take-out, and a sick mama.

My mom passed away a couple of months before the Twin Towers fell, when I was 23. Around this time I started practicing vinyasa yoga in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. I got dumped just days before both of my roommates moved out to live with their boyfriends. Yoga helped me feel calmer and healthier, and allowed me to sit with my various sadnesses. It was different from anything I grew up with.

As I continued my search for meaning, I figured I should check my own Jewish background. Though familiar, I didn’t know an Aleinu from an Aleph. I also thought something about Israelis reminded me of what I found edgy and compelling in 90s era hip hop, so I decided to learn a little Hebrew and went on Birthright (a free trip to Israel for 18 to 26-year-olds). I said the Mourner’s Kaddish for my mom the year after she passed, and it served as a mantra that brought change in my life.

I was working in music marketing when I met my husband Jonah on Jdate. When he showed up I thought, “this guy is wearing a kippah, he’s way too religious for me, he’s moving to DC in a few months, and he really doesn’t seem like one-night-stand material.”

And then I got past all that and was present. We both loved hip hop, and comedy, and spirituality (admittedly in a sort of distance-learning way).

People ask if I got more religious because of my husband. I think we wouldn’t have connected if I wasn’t already interested.

At first we traded. I would become Shabbat-observant if he would become vegetarian. Then circumstances led us to new paths. I enrolled in yoga teacher training at and about a year later Jonah started rabbi school. I learned the rhythms of the call to birth when my mentor Sasha, also a doula, needed me to sub for her prenatal and parent baby yoga classes. I had felt a distinct lack of a calling in my life but around the topic of birth, something clicked.

Jonah and I have grown together so much that it’s hard to extract whose influence affected what part of our lives. Jonah’s tzitzit and now payis–are they evidence of his devoutness, or my love of cultivated eccentricities? My sustained interest in healing–a yogic path, my ambition, or Jonah’s grounding presence in my life?

Yoga has taught me that sensation is fleeting, and that sticking with a challenge is a faster path beyond it than avoidance. Judaism grounds me in ritual and mindfulness (blessings over food, Shabbat, family) in a fairly automatic way. Being present and un-alarmed at births helps laboring couples as much as anything else.

I was attending births and teaching new mamas before becoming a mama myself. Now we look after a 2-year-old baby girl Bina, my mother’s namesake, who both revolutionized and validated the ways I understand birth and life. I try to nourish wellness more than avoid illness, and know that being edgy isn’t about being tough–it’s about being true to yourself.

I am a ritual-maker, fiercely-devoted ima (mother), witness, friend, and iconoclast. Birth is my calling, yoga is my soul, and Judaism is my family.


I have decided to begin a mysore yoga practice. The first morning I showed up at Harlem's new Land Yoga I told Lara that I am committed... but... I have to see how it works with my family after the first session. Lara politely told me that if I intend to take class, I need to be committed to 3x a week for minimum of a month.
I have been deliberating whether to babycare swap or pre-school or pre-un-school this fall. I got cold feet when the JCC required us to commit to a class series in advance without a trial session.
Tis the season to take on new endeavors. Sometimes there is a problem with our culture's insistence that down time is a waste of time. We schedule ourselves and our children into a busy tizzy.
But there is beauty in making a commitment of our time, money, and efforts. I often notice myself weighing all the pros and cons of a particular situation only to find later that as much as I deliberated, the one variable I hadn't considered becomes most prominent. Or if I deliberate too long, the opportunity passed, or I lost steam.
When we look for a backdoor, we often find one. But maybe we don't need a way OUT as much as we need a way IN. When we spend our time avoiding getting stuck, we're not spending time in the current opportunity that presented itself.
I was really pleased that Lara pressed me.
I encourage you to commit yourself to something today. Nurture that part of yourself that still has instincts and intuition and trust that you were meant to encounter the ramifications if there are some. It's not being reckless - even if you make a "mistake," it was a mistake that was made in the name of allowing yourself to practice using your intuition, so that there are less mistakes in the future.
I guess I'm saying... seize the day family.
Posted without 108 revisions,
Julia :)

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