Here is my reflection on my experience on Counting the Omer, a spiritual practice in Judaism that we observe from Passover to Shavuot
Before diving deeper into “Counting the Omer and what this all means, ” I need to take sometime to reflect how this all came to be and why it has taken me (nearly months later) to build up the courage and energy to write this out.
I know taking the time to do is what I need to do. It is time. I believe others can resonate with this practice and the incredible gift that Judaism can provide if you let it in… I look forward to hearing how this may resonate with you. What have you learned? What have you re-discovered or re-learned?
You see, Judaism (well religion) for that matter tends to be this huge concept that is really hard to grasp, understand and comprehend. As someone who grew up in the reform Jewish movement, going to temple every Sunday for Hebrew school, BBYO and going to events focused on the Jewish community, it always was a place, almost a safe haven that I felt most connected to (aside from ART or Social Work). Whenever, I was having something going on in my life or feeling down, spirituality was always there. Waiting for me, it was not till probably going through the pandemic and everything that has occurred when I have had these low moments that I recognize it and embrace it for all it is and all it has given me. Like any religion, it can feel boring and like there is nothing that we gain from it. I want to take the time to uncover a part of Judaism that I knew about but it’s not till this year that I really dug deeper into what it means to me and the experience I had of “Counting the Omer WITHIN” in a way that was inviting, cool and creative.
Rewind back (from Present day July 5, 2021 to March 2021)
During the month of March, I was really struggling with my mental health and on occasion contemplated why am I even here and what am I doing with my life? I am not sure about you or if you have ever felt this way but if you have, you can understand that even the simple things like feeding yourself, showering, and overall being active is really very, very challenging. Around the same time, I came across The Tasman Center: https://www.tasmancenter.og randomly on social media. My soul was not in a good place, I felt like my “spark for life” was dying out (I just left a pretty emotionally abusive relationship, job and was in a place I didn’t really want to be in (living with my parents at 33 years old back in my childhood home). I needed something to bring out of such a dark place. My faith, I needed it more than ever before so I reached into my spirituality and here is what SHOWED UP!
I remember enrolling for the cohort, Illuminate the Omer and thinking to myself, what else is there to do right now? I had nothing left to do, so I took it ON. I remember having a lot of ideas, re-discovering what brought me that spark, that fire within my soul. One thing was for certain that my inner Artist was crying out to me to reach deep within and begin creating. A voice inside my head said, “Just do it.” It was around the same time, that I randomly came across the app Clubhouse, I heard things about it was pretty apprehensive. As soon as I opened it up, it just so happens that around the same time there was a huge movement of Jews that were utilizing this app and spent hours, even days on it. I didn’t feel like I was really ready to go down that road and I wasn’t even sure what I was searching for but I knew I needed to look more into it. Once I decided to explore it more, I started to find rooms that were intriguing but were lacking what I desired but it . As soon as I put my intention into the universe, world of Clubhouse, I found what I was looking for (my tribe, my community, my home). My energy returned to me, I felt all the vibes and was ready to dive into this world. I remember scrolling on Clubhouse, wondering what all the fuss was about. What was so great about Clubhouse? I decided to try it out, go into different rooms and soon enough, I found the club, “Mystics and Musicians.” I remember it was just like yesterday, it was pretty late in the evening (since I tend to be a night owl it didn’t phase me.) That first conversation is not what drew me in, in fact it was just a few guys and myself talking about psychedelic’s here and there. I wasn’t that interested. However, I did follow the club and receive some type of notification or saw a new room, “Sefirat Ha’Omer.” I wasn’t sure what to think of it but I remember at some point, joining the room.
The room started off as a smaller crowd, less than 20 and around 10 and was made up of quite the eclectic crowd. A few to name; An almost Cantor at JTS, a song leader in the BBYO/Reform movement, tarot/kabbalah/crystal folk, chakra/mystics/educators/rabbis/musicians/healers/seekers/dreamers and all the things. For the next 8 weeks Passover-Shavuot, we would be Counting the Omer. The Omer means, a sheaf of corn or omer of grain presented as an offering on the second day of Passover. How the heck can we even relate to this and what does this even mean? How can we make sense of this? The practice of counting the omer was no stranger to me, I remember years and years ago back in 2014, I was in a similar place in my life but also not. Much has changed and much reminds me of the same familiar feeling. Here is an old blog entry: https://wordpress.com/post/modehaniandeverythinginbetween.wordpress.com/81
So here I was, it was April 2021. I chose to let this room in and contribute to it. Here’s how it went: every night at 10 PM (EST) we joined the Clubhouse room. In the beginning, Aydin and Jacob led us in the prayer of Counting the Omer, and recited the following prayer in Song:
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer. To find out more information, check out: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/blessing-for-counting-the-omer/
Every single night at 10 PM EST was unique (no night was the same, which is what made is to special). In the earlier weeks/days, we sang along (without mics on) pulled up on stage and reflected what the day meant to us. See each day, brought new meaning, new life. For 49 days, we intentionally took time to slow down, to reflect and share the most vulnerable part of ourselves. Since we couldn’t physically “see” each other, maybe we felt more comfortable to share the darkest parts of ourselves and parts that brought us joy but the day-to-day mundane life didn’t give us room or overall space to grow in this sense? During this time, I started drawing again. As soon as I picked up my prismacolor colored pencils, a part of my soul came ALIVE again. I was where I needed to be and I needed to lean into it and let it IN. I’ve been here before, I’ve counted before but this was different, it was not trying to be something different, I was stepping into my authentic, true self and it began to shine and shine ever so brightly in the images I created.
I entered into Clubhouse, into the room and was transported into “another world” of sparks, deep spirituality, connection and awe. I was in my element and I was HOME. I remember there were times I was so overwhelmed with my life and the 9-5 life, that there was certainly times that I just wanted to isolate, to shut it all down and stop creating. How is it that the one thing that brings me to life, I was willing to let it go and stop it all together? I am not sure and know I need to reflect more on this but I am glad that I was able to pull myself out of the rut I was in and continue to create. In the weeks that followed, there were times I just wanted to give up and be done. See here is the thing with counting the omer, you can’t just stop (it’s the same as being human and continuing to work on ourselves, we can’t ever just stop). If we do, we die and out soul dies more. So here I was spending hours and hours at a time, pouring into my art and into creating. It was pretty incredible to see what happened when I let it ALL in. I was able to create this majestic piece of art and I know this I not the end, this is simply the beginning.
In the beginning, it was pretty basic, comfortable. Towards, the end it grew almost outside of itself. It became a practice, it became a HOME for me when I did not feel at home in myself (emotionally/spiritually and in my soul/body/mind). Like LIFE, should and has the power to do. but only, if we let it in, and cultivate the energy it needs to grow, flourish and thrive.
Here are all 49 drawings from my Counting of the Omer WITHIN: