Tree of Life / Pittsburgh Response

For most of my life, I have felt incredibly blessed to live in a time and a place where I could - in my body, my lived experience and my expression of Jewish identity - transform the cellular memory and intergenerational trauma in my lines from a narrative of survive to one of thrive. I've stalked hypervigilance, scarcity and stories of living as if I am about to be killed in my own system, and have devoted significant attention to unfreezing, unwinding, unfearing. I have leaned deeply in to what is vitality-bringing in my body and life, with awesome playmates in Jewish communities who are ripe for this shared discovery. 

This current moment in the Jewish psyche - which of course is, as Baba would call it, 'a fiction of purity', for there are so many vastly unique Jewish experiences, there is no one Jewish psyche - is one that holds such easy potential to reroot in fear, in survival instinct and resulting myopicism kicking in strong. I have zero interest in or availability for that. And yet I watch the remnants of gripping in my body, the strands that remember why it is important to be that afraid. It is not that long ago that we needed to be that afraid. It is now that we need to be that afraid. So the narrative, and many people's experience, goes. 

What is true for me is that I have the immense privilege of choice around the state of my nervous system, after decades of working to make that be so. I know what I need to do to be well, even amidst significant distress, and urgency that is simultaneously very real, and also, in my body today, false. 

The urgency is real: people I love were very close to the synagogue shooting. The urgency is real: the actioned upon hate speech - all Jews should die - is a threat to me and my family and communities and and and. 

The urgency is false: I am waking in my bed, readying for meaningful meetings, studio recording and teaching at seminary.  I live in a home I love, a body that is currently healthy, and I have what I need to shape immense goodness in my moment and my day. I have choice today about what I give my attention to, and the awareness that what I give my attention to grows.

I am inside of the dynamic tension. To rage, to mourn, to mobilize. To thrive, to experience pleasure, to weave nourishing creation. It is not an either or. That I have the privilege to choose which to position more centrally - to have cultivated the capacity in myself, and to have ease of life circumstances, in which I get to be a Jew who is not afraid ... this is a privilege I desire and intend to wield strongly, as a medicine that will help weave another way in the collective.

I am working on an editing project this week that includes an article by my dad talking about having visceral memories of the holocaust when he was only three years old, and of receiving his parents' fierce support after he kicked the sht out of a kid who said he 'should have been gassed with the other Jews' when he was six.

Somehow, I was born into a generation in my family that had more space, more freedom in my body to shift the narrative. I understand the availability to know ease and safety in my body as a luxury and a privilege. It is one that I consciously wield to find new ways of living inside a Jewish body, identity and community, one in which I claim space to shape the narrative.

Today, I am waking with appreciation for the many beyond-Jewish beloveds who have reached out in allyship in recent days. I am grateful for and curious about timing -  I was on a hot springs road trip with a Jewish spiritual leader way more publically powerhouse than me this weekend, as everything was going down. We pendulated between tending our beloved colleagues calling us in states of righteous high distress and staying our course amidst some of the most epic natural beauty I have ever experienced.

In this moment, I am grateful for being able to engage with you here in social media land without vortexing into the bubble which is toxic for my nervous system. 

I am readying to light the resin incense that is central to my morning practice and which is a portal for my prayer and my pleasure. Because I haven't unpacked my suitcase after arriving home in the wee hours, and my incense burner is somewhere in there, I have the lush sweet resin placed inside the candle on my altar, which is a yahrzeit candle of remembrance. This placement at any other time would feel dissonant. This morning, this extended moment, the mixture of orienting toward optimality - showing up for my practice of pleasure, remembering what helps me be most well and choosing that - and having it situated clearly in the container of remembering, grief and the reverence practices of my ancestors, this seems just right.

Taya Shere