The Story Behing the Song In Your Hands

” In Your Hands, in Your hands, we are resting in Your hands. In Your Hands, in Your hands, please have mercy on us.”

This past Sunday, a few hours before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) began, I received some surprising news about my health. While I won’t go into the details, it appears that I have a congenital bone issue that I will have to tend to this year.

My prayers over Rosh Hashanah were different over the holiday. Usually I have a sense of not knowing what the year ahead will bring. This year, thought I still don’t know much, there’s a high likelihood that I will require a couple of surgeries to correct the problem.  It felt strange going into the new year knowing that there will be difficult challenges ahead, but not knowing exactly what that will look like.

We are so quick to name experiences like these as “bad.” I don’t view them that way. Naming something “good” or “bad” doesn’t feel relevant to me. What feels more relevant to me are the following questions: What can I learn from this experience? How can this help me grow into the person I hope to become?

Over Rosh Hashanah, a thought popped into my head: “Your move, God.” There’s a constant dance between what is in our control and what is out of our control, and each one affects the other. The Universe makes her move, I make mine. Back and forth, back and forth. I don’t expend much effort on those things that are out of my control (read: the election, other than my ability to vote and canvas), and I expend lots of effort over those I do have control (i.e.: my reactions, how I speak and act).

Just because I don’t consider something to be “bad” doesn’t mean it isn’t emotionally painful and that I’m not grieving. It looks like I will have to give up running, one of my favorite activities. While I am lucky (I hope) to still be able to bike, swim, hike and do other activities, it does not take away the sadness and heartbreak of no longer being able to run.

” In Your Hands, in Your hands, we are resting in Your hands. In Your Hands, in Your hands, please have mercy on us.”


Lo Res Head ShotJulie Geller is a Denver-based singer/songwriter who writes and performs original music in English and Hebrew that inspires people to become their best versions of themselves. Hear more at www.juliegeller.com.

 

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The Story Behind the Song This Heart: Judaism and Buddhism

When I was 25, my husband booked tickets for us to fly to Paris for a winter vacation. As the day of the flight approached, I began to get nervous. Something was off. I felt like I couldn’t get on the plane. Even thinking about getting on that plane gave me a panic attack, a feeling of being crushed and unable to breathe, a sensation that I had never before experienced. My boarding that plane – and this was coming from someone who had reached premier airline status before the end of high school – was simply not possible. We ended up missing our flight because I couldn’t bring myself to get on the plane, let alone pack up, get on the subway, and get to the gate. I didn’t need a vacation; I needed help.

My mental health situation deteriorated rapidly. Within days, the panic attacks were happening with greater frequency and I was literally having trouble leaving my house. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t go anywhere. I felt like every building, every subway, was about to crush me.

During those difficult months, I met a friend of a friend whom I knew had suffered from depression, and had found much relief in both Jewish prayer and Buddhist teachings and meditation. He described discovering Jewish prayer akin to finding a piece of driftwood, and discovering meditation akin to finding a life raft. He recommended that I read Pema Chodron’s book Start Where You Are, as well as Mindfulness in Plain English, a primer for mindfulness meditation.

That winter, in addition to seeing a therapist, doing behavioral therapy, and going on medication for a short while – all of which contributed to my healing – I began a practice of sitting for 20 minutes a day. For the first time in my life,  I wasn’t filling up those 20 minutes with talking, or moving around, or distractions, or doing anything. I was sitting with myself and my crazy brain. (That’s basically what mindfulness meditation, also known as Vipassana mediation, is: sitting quietly. I don’t use mantras or anything fancy. I just sit.)

What did Buddhism offer me that, up to that point, my own rich tradition of Judaism hadn’t? For starters, silence and non-action were valued. In my family and community, many important things were valued, but I must say that silence and non-action were not two of them.

I had also never heard such gentle, loving explanations for how to behave. A few years later, I attended a silent retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, where he told us that when we get angry to drop everything and cradle our anger like a crying baby. This made me cry then and makes my cry now thinking about it. There was an exercise in which we all lay on our backs and focused attention on each part of our body, thanking it for its service to us. “Thank you liver for processing our blood. Even though I sometimes abuse you by drinking too much, I want to thank you for keeping me healthy and strong… Thank you lungs for enabling me to breathe…” I had never been exposed to radical gratitude like that before.

And presence. My life had been about success, achievement, the next thing. Many years later, I walked into a therapist’s office. Her practice was full, but I wasn’t about to let her send me away. She kept sending me to different people, but I kept coming back to her. There was something that drew me so deeply to her. Here’s what it was: When I was with her, she was completely present. I had never experienced that level of presence, and it made me feel seen and understood and appreciated.

And, finally, the Buddhist teachers that I admire speak in simple terms about core themes of being alive, such as ego, suffering, oneness with all beings, and impermanence. These ideas opened my eyes and changed the course of my life.  I think about them daily, but I don’t remember hearing much about them in my own tradition. Are they there? Absolutely. The teachings of the mystics and the Hasidic masters overlap on many of these themes. I haven’t yet put in the consistent effort to familiarize myself with their works, but I have some knowledge of them

So, my song This Heart is rooted in teachings I have learned over the years. Teachings that exist in my own Jewish tradition, but would take some excavating for me to find. This Heart is about impermanence, and about being in the moment, and about how heartbreaking life is if we allow ourselves to feel it. In the words of Pema Chodron, “Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it…To stay with that shakiness, to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge, that is the path of true awakening.”

 

Lo Res Head Shot

 

Julie Geller is a Denver-based singer/songwriter who writes and performs original music in English and Hebrew that inspires people to become their best versions of themselves. Hear more at www.juliegeller.com.

Thoughts Before Thanksgiving

If I Die Tomorrow

I am not planning on dying anytime soon but, if I die tomorrow, please know that I was happy.

I got to spend my days alone, creating.
I got to spend the rest of the time with the people I love the most, my family.
I failed a lot. I became fearless and stopped caring if I failed. Creating things was too much fun to care what people thought of what I made.
I never made it big as an artist. I created on my own terms without having to deal with the pressures of success, money, and fame.
I got to be a link in a rich, enduring tradition dating back thousands of years.
I observed Shabbat. Every week I got to unplug for a full night and day and our children got to play hide and seek instead of on iPads.
I stopped being afraid of and limited by other people’s fears.
I had enough of everything I needed.
I had a partner who made me laugh.
I had a relationship with God.
I got paid to sing with kids.
I forgave my family.
I forgave myself.

Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

Love,
Julie

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Healing Through the Creative Process

Looking to create more in the new year? Wanting to make more time for knitting/woodworking/painting/winging/writing/whatever-your-passion-is? Then watch this short video exploring the connection between creativity and healing.

In it I discuss:
1) How the creative process can be healing
2) How it can be healing to share what you’ve created
3) The one time the creative process is NOT healing

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Happy creating!

Love,
Julie

Got Grit?

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When I was on the Inca Trail last week, I felt strong, confident, sure-footed.

But most of all, I felt like I had grit.

I remember a conversation I had with my father eleven years ago. He told me about a friend of his who could do anything. You need something done, you call this guy and he’ll do it. New roof? Sure. Want to open a restaurant? He’ll help you. Taxes? Whatever. He’ll say yes and then he’ll figure out how to do it. I remember telling my dad that, although I desperately wanted to be that type of person, I just couldn’t be that way. Something was stopping me from saying yes to opportunities. Maybe I wanted to do things perfectly, or maybe I just didn’t have the confidence to know that I could deliver on things. I’m not sure.

So, there I was on the trail last week. I wasn’t the one in the best shape.

But I kept up.

I was right up there with the best of them. My thinking was, “If someone’s going to do this, then why not me?”

So, of everything I’ve learned in my 30’s, I’d say becoming a person who isn’t afraid to say yes is what has changed the most.

I’ve got grit now and there’s no stopping that.

Don’t Be So Afraid to Copy

A Chicago-based musician I had never met emailed me out of the blue last week. He had come across my website and wanted to know if I would share the name of my web designer with him.  He wanted to use the same template for his website.

Did I send him the information? Of course. But why? Aren’t I afraid of having someone else out there who is doing the same thing as I am using the same website? Not at all.

I guarantee you that, once he builds his website, you won’t know where he got it from. Once he adds his content and energy to it, it will feel like him, not me. 

Before I shot my last music video, I had my camera operator study a music video that I admire. Although in many ways we copied that video, the energy of my video is completely different.  I don’t think it would ever occur to anybody who has seen both videos that they are in any way related.

So, that’s one way to make art: admire, copy, make it your own.

Don’t be afraid to co-opt.

Head Shot Lo ResJulie Geller is a singer/songwriter who is saving the world one song at a time by writing original, uplifting, positive music in English and Hebrew. You can watch her latest videos here. Sign up for free monthly music at www.JulieGeller.com.

 

“Of Course I Can Do it. I’m JR!”

This morning, as I was taking my daughter out of the car at her nursery school, my foot hit the curb behind me and my flip flop fell off my foot and straight down into the sewer grate. I looked down, couldn’t even see it, and immediately realized that my shoe was lost forever. It was so strange that I just started laughing. 

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As I walked into my daughter’s school with only one shoe on, I ran into a friend of mine and, giggling, told her what had happened to my flip flop. “Oh well, time to buy new shoes,” she said.JR, the custodian of the school, overheard our conversation and asked, “Do you want me to get it out for you?”“You can?” I asked, incredulously.“Of course I can,” he said, “I’m JR

And then, he proceeded to make a hook out of a wire hanger and, before I even finished dropping my daughter off in her classroom, presented me with my missing shoe.

Now, did JR do anything that I couldn’t have done? No. Did he use technical skills that I don’t possess? No. Frankly, I could have taken a hanger and done the same thing. But it never occurred to me. Instead, I immediately started to rearrange my morning to allow for a stop at the store to buy new flip flops.

But JR knew that if there was a problem then he could fix it.  It’s part of his self-identity, at least in the realm of this type of problems.

So, what is it about some people? Why do some of us feel that we can solve anything that comes our way – and then proceed to – while others give up?

I have this attitude professionally.  I often accept gigs that I’m not qualified for and trust that I’ll figure it out when the time comes. And, for the most part, I always do. But I don’t have this attitude in every arena of my life.

So, the question I’m mulling over today is: How do I become more like JR, more of the time? Next time there’s a seemingly intractable problem, I want to be able to say, “Of course I have a solution. I’m Julie.”

ImageJulie Geller is a singer/songwriter who is saving the world one song at a time by writing original, uplifting, positive music in English and Hebrew. You can watch her latest videos here. Sign up for free monthly music at www.JulieGeller.com

A Story From Early On in My Music Career

 

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A sign from my first gig at the age of 18. I love how 1st is written here.

Reading musician Abigail Washburn’s story this week of peeing on herself out of fear at her first gig got me thinking back to my early days of playing. This story came back to me today:

I taught myself to play the guitar my junior year of college. That summer, I came home to Denver and played at some open mics and even got a few gigs. One gig I had was at a coffee shop way out in the boonies, about forty minutes away from my home. I went with my dad (best dad ever, then and now shlepping around everywhere to cheer me on). Two friends of mine – my original Colorado fan base – met us there. There were a handful of people in the now-defunct joint.

The gig went well. I recall that, in the middle of my set, someone told me that I should say my name so people would know who I was. I then proceeded to announce my name at least once between as well as in the middle of every song.

Anyway, here’s the interesting part: After the gig, the guy who told me to announce my name and I started to jam. There was a piano there and, if memory serves me correctly, he played the fiddle. So, I sat down at the piano (my first instrument) and we started jamming.

I tell you, I couldn’t believe what was coming out of my fingers. It was as if God herself were playing that night, not me. To say that I was playing above my ability was an understatement; I was playing and improvising at a level I have never reached before or since. We had a crowd gather around us and I was wowing everyone, including myself. I could feel the music emanating from somewhere beyond my wildest grasp and moving up and through me. I knew I had nothing to do with it. It was simply magical and everyone who was there could feel it.

The proprietor asked us if we could come back and play for money the following Saturday night. I accepted the gig and was immediately a bundle of nerves for the rest of the week, fearing that I would be awful.

So, Saturday night rolled around and we showed up and began to play to a full house. And guess what? We were beyond awful. I was back to being regular old me, with the limited musical skill set that I had. No God speaking through me, no spiritual vessel, no nothing. Just a bundle of nerves and fear and expectations blocking any chance of something awesome occurring again.

We hadn’t rehearsed at all and we just couldn’t get started. We cleared out the place. We played (or whatever you want to call it) for an hour, I shamefully took my money from the angry proprietor and then never saw her or the fiddler or stepped foot in that joint ever again.

So, when I sat down to write this post, I was thinking about how, all these years later, I still didn’t understand what happened. It was such a strange experience. But, in the process of retelling this event that I haven’t thought about for years, I think I finally came to terms with it. Here’s what I now know that I didn’t know for a long time:

– Magic can only happen when you’re relaxed and having fun and unafraid. When we were jamming I was all these things. When we came back for the gig I was none of them.

– You can never count on that special magic occurring but you can do your best to cultivate a sense of inner spaciousness and lightheartedness that makes a hospitable place for it to stay in the event that it does.

– It’s important for your own sanity to know that that magic – or anything you create – doesn’t emanate from you. You may be the one who is lucky enough to transmit it but you can’t take credit for it.

So, here’s to having more of that magic, more of the time!

Lo Res Head Shot Julie Geller is a singer/songwriter who is saving the world one song at a time by writing original, uplifting, positive music in English and Hebrew. You can watch her latest videos here. Sign up for free monthly music at www.JulieGeller.com.

 

Top 15 Reasons Why I Love Biking

I think I used up most of my appetite for adventure in my early twenties. Locked in the Alhambra and then given private tour? Check. Decided en route to Costa Rica on solo trip to deplane in Guatamala with a guy I met on the flight? Check. Three days at running of the bulls without lodging? Check. Scared out of Morocco? Check. 
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No, I didn’t run but I was there

These days, I’m happiest curled up on my couch with a cup of tea and a juicy novel.

But, there is one adventure that I’ve wanted to have since I was a teenager and my desire to do it has only grown: I want to bike across the United States. 

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