The following is a script that can be used and modified for conducting a Jewish healing circle for Purim. Learn more about how Sue Gurland started her Jewish healing circles at the following blog post.
I. Kol Ha-olam Kulo
Kol Ha-olam kulo, gesher tzar m’od
Gesher tzar m’od, gesher tzar m’od
Kol Ha-olam kulo, gesher tzar m’od, gesher tzar m’od
V’ha-ikar, V’ha-ikar, lo l’fa-khed, lo l’fa-khed k’lal
V’ha-ikar, V’ha-ikar, lo l’fa-khed k’lal
The whole world is a very narrow bridge a very narrow bridge, a very narrow bridge
The whole world is a very narrow bridge, a very narrow bridge
But the main thing to recall is to have no fear, have no fear at all
But the main thing to recall is to have no fear at all
II. Welcome to our Healing Circle. I’m ________and this is my co-facilitator and song leader, _________.
III. We’re in the month of Adar as we transition into Spring. Transitions are always unstable times, and Adar is marked by the holiday of Purim. Purim is the story of how the Jews of Shushan were condemned to death by the evil Haman then saved by the beautiful Queen Esther. Everything is topsy-turvy as the Jews bounce back and forth between despair and joy, fear and hope, violence and merriment.
It occurred to me that living with rapid changes and overwhelming feelings is a lot like living with illness or caring for a seriously ill friend or family member. You hang on every lab result, every doctor visit, and your moods fluctuate depending on how the sick person is feeling. So let’s see what lessons we can learn from the Purim story to help us heal through uncertain times.
IV. If this is the first time you’re joining us, we want you to feel comfortable and welcome; participate as much or as little as you want; you won’t be put on the spot, you can always pass.
- Our intention is to create healing community for ourselves and all those who need healing
- We ask you to keep confidentiality; speak with “I” statements; and remember that the most healing thing you can offer each other is not advice, but listening.
- Before we introduce ourselves, we start by grounding ourselves and our circle. It’s important to have a foundation for any spiritual work we do, and since we’re always connected to the Divine, we always need to be grounded.
- Invite to stand, ground like tree, bring light down over us. (This can be done as a seated visualization, meditation, or whatever leader feels comfortable with.)
VI. Introduce ourselves—Please say your first name and how you’re feeling in your body right now. Take a moment to check in.
VII. Our first text describes a familiar situation and gives us one suggestion for change. Will someone read?
When you are on the healing journey, unknowns abound. What’s happening with the body, will I get worse, is healing even possible, what will it take to heal, what do I do next, how do I manage my life and a chronic illness, and many more uncertainties may feel like they take over your mind. Uncertainty can bring up fear, discomfort, a feeling of being out of control, and challenges to your sense of self, and you might have developed habitual responses to manage the discomfort.
When instead of going into your habitual responses, you can let not knowing open you up, you can learn to bring spaciousness and excitement to uncertainty.... When you can learn to thrive in uncertainty, you enhance your healing journey.
–Julie Stiles, Certified Health Coach
VIII. So how can we learn to bring spaciousness and excitement to uncertainty? The first step is to notice when we’re shut down. How often do we go through the morning grumbling at people, feeling tense, overeating until we finally notice that we’re upset? How long before we say to ourselves, “I can change my behavior or my perspective” and find we have a different outcome. How often do we marvel at people who find things to be grateful for in the midst of calamity?
What would it be like if we started our day with a prayer of gratitude for waking up once again to life? Listen to Tuviah’s original song and then join in the chant Modeh/Modah Ani.
IN THE MORN
In the morn I awake and I look to Thee
With the holy blessing Modeh Ani
I offer thanks to You for my soul’s restored In keeping Your word there is great reward
Hear me now, I come to You
Your words are emet, they are all true
From Har Sinai I hear Your call To You I offer my heart, my all
So know that I am yours and You are mine We’ll walk together for all time
My holy prayers to You will take me higher
For You HaShem are my heart’s desire
MODEH / MODAH ANI
(Rabbi David Paskin)
Modeh/Modah ani l'fanecha Melech chai v’kayam (2x)
She'he'che'zarta bi, bi nishmati (2x)
I offer thanks to You, ever-living Sovereign that You have restored my soul to me in mercy: How great is Your trust.
IX. Deepak Chopra has another suggestion for finding peace with uncertainty and with illness. Will someone read?
There exists within each of us a natural state of simple and open awareness in which we feel happy, light, and at peace. In contrast, the state of suffering or unhappiness is complicated…. When our life is overly complicated, we’re weighed down by superfluous things at every level.
We can begin to let go of the complications that cause us to suffer by cultivating a simple state of awareness…. simplicity is nature’s default position. Suffering and the complications that fuel it are unnatural; it wastes energy to maintain complexity. –Deepak Chopra
X. I’ve noticed that when I’m sick, or when I’m involved in helping someone else, I’m mostly focused on that one issue. I put aside other distractions and do the minimal amount needed to keep life moving. Going back to our Purim story, before she went to the king and risked her life, Queen Esther fasted for three days, prayed, and prepared herself for the encounter. She pared down her life and focused on the most pressing concern.
XI. One of the ways all health coaches advise to slow ourselves down, simplify our lives, and focus is through meditation. Meditation teaches us to watch our thoughts as they arise and pass through without reacting to them, not to resist but to allow.
This poem, by the Sufi poet Rumi, captures the essence of meditation and offers a response to it.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. —Jellaludin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks
• Get comfortable
• Deep breaths
• Bring attention to heart. In many mystical traditions, including in Judaism, the mind resides in the heart. Breath in and out of your heart.
• Now, bring into your heart an image of a person or thing—like a medical report or a test—that brings up uncertainty. Imagine a question mark over that person or thing.
• Now, stop and sense your body. If you notice tension in any part of your body, breathe into that tension and release it. Keep doing that until you are feeling relaxed again.
• Bringing your attention back to the image in your heart, see if you can just allow it to be there without reacting. You have no control over this person or thing. Whatever happens next will be in the future, but is not happening now. Right now you are relaxed, safe, held in community. Give yourself permission to be in the unknown. In this present moment, there is nothing to do but breathe and notice your thoughts. If your mind wanders, come back to breathing in and breathing out.
• Now surround that image with a golden light, so bright that the image dissolves into the light. Let that light spread throughout your body, dissolving any remaining tension and filling you with light. Know that that light is within you—within every being—and you can connect with it anytime you need to feel the love and support that are always available to you, that are your birthright and that you carry inside. And that light can overcome the darkness of fear and uncertainty.
XIII. Now, bring into that light anyone for whom you are praying for healing. Surround them with green healing light. See them whole and healed already. Remember that you can include yourself, as we are all in need of healing. If a prayer comes to mind, offer it up on their behalf and feel free to speak it as you light a candle for those in your prayers.
When you’re ready, if you would like, you can come up and light a candle and say their names. Please light just one candle for all the people you’re praying for and say their names aloud, as names call them present. If you want to offer a prayer on their behalf, please do so. If you’d rather not come up, you can say their names quietly from your seat. We’ll all hold you in our attention.
Ha·ro·fei lish·vu·rei lev
Mo·neh mis·par la·ko·kha·vim
Le·khu·lam she·mot yik·ra (2x)
Halleluyah, Halleluyah (2x)
Healer of the broken-hearted, binder of their wounds
Counter of uncountable stars, You know where they are
Healer of the broken-hearted, binder of our wounds
Counter of uncountable stars,
You know who we are
Ana El na r’fa na lah (2x)
XIV. The next quote is from Rav Kook, the first chief Rabbi of British Palestine, continuing the metaphor of the candle. Will someone read?
Every person must know and understand that in the depths of each being there burns a candle, and one person's candle is not at all like another's candle. And there is absolutely no one that has no candle. Every person must know and understand that he or she must work to reveal the candle’s light publicly and light that candle as a great torch that will give light to the entire world. —Rav Kook
Abraham Joshua Heschel also said, “A Jew is asked to take a leap of action rather than a leap of faith.” And that’s just what our heroine, Queen Esther, did. After meditating and fasting for three days, she approached the king and revealed Haman’s plot. She moved forward in the face of uncertainty, putting her trust in HaShem.
We often think we can only move forward when we are certain of our direction, but, in truth, there is no certainty in life. Indeed, some of the most important discoveries in science and human endeavor have come from exploring this uncertainty. You may have heard the story of the Nobel laureate in physics who credited his mother for his becoming a scientist. He related that every day when he came home from school, she’d ask him not, “What did you learn today,” but “Did you ask a good question?” Uncertainty is an earmark of science, and of Judaism. Questioning is how we learn.
We know from martial arts, from win-win conflict resolution, and from our own lives that when we resist something, when we’re in opposition to it, we remain stuck. It’s when we embrace our fears, yield and learn to dance with them, that something new can arise in its own time. A deep acceptance that life is uncertain can empower us to embrace uncertainty, to explore and create.
The last quote from Rainer Maria Rilke states this beautifully. Will someone read?
Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. —Rainer Maria Rilke
XV. So what did the Jews of Shushan do after Haman was vanquished? They celebrated, of course. They thanked G-d for their deliverance. Not knowing what the future would bring, they seized the moment to rejoice in their salvation. Joy is said to increase in Adar because of Purim, and where joy increases, so does the Shekhinah, the Indwelling Presence of HaShem.
So we’ll end with two songs that give thanks and celebrate the fact that we are alive and, in spite of uncertainty, can celebrate with joy.
Tov l’hodot l’Adonai u’l’zamer l’shimkha elyon
L’hagid ba-boker hasdekha, ve’emunatkha ba-leilot
It is a good thing to praise Adonai; to sing hymns to Your name, O Most High
To proclaim Your steadfast love at daybreak,
Your faithfulness each night.
Psalm 92: 2–3
IVDU ET HASHEM
Ivdu et Hashem b’simkha (2x)
Bo’u l’fa-nav bir-na-na, l’fa-nav bir-na-na
Serve G-d with happiness; come before His presence with singing.
Psalm 100: 2
XVI. Now bring down that light, that energy of joy, over your bodies, through your bodies, and spread it out into the room and into the world. Feel it circulate around the circle. Feel yourself held in the Oneness, in this community, and in the certainty that you are not alone.
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