Carrying our bones (Radical Torah repost)
This week's portion: instead of sons

Our first four days of hashpa'ah

My small stone heart. Apologies for the blurry cameraphone picture.

The first intensive of the ALEPH Hashpa'ah program will end tomorrow at 2pm, just in time for the Shabbaton to begin around 4. I've been trying to figure out whether/how I can write about the hashpa'ah intensive; it's been an amazing few days, but I'm finding it surprisingly difficult to describe.

I can tell you that there are nineteen of us in the program: some rabbis, some rabbinic pastors, the rest student clergy like me. I can tell you that we've been meeting at the Solstice Center, a ten-block walk from the Boulderado, in a carpeted room with a big round skylight. That our group includes half a dozen people from my DLTI cohort, as well as several other people I already knew, so walking in for the first time already felt like coming home.

Our faculty this week has included two rabbis and a psychotherapist, each of whom has spoken at length about how she came to be a spiritual director and about how she does the work of spiritual direction. We've experienced some amazing davenen with fundamental principles of hashpa'ah woven in: holy listening, speaking directly to/from the heart, sacred silence. We've done some powerful work in hevruta, delving into our spiritual autobiographies and exploring what called us to this work. Today we attempted our first sessions of hashpa'ah, and then talked about what worked and what didn't and where we tripped ourselves up and where we feel like we actually connected with the presence of God.

But all of this feels like I'm talking around what we've been doing, not about it. The truth of the matter is, most of what we've been doing has been personal and spiritual and kind of tough to verbalize. The internal work is (and needs to be) confidential; the "professional development" piece isn't all that blogworthy without the emotional and spiritual underpinnings which I either can't discuss without breaking confidentiality, or can't figure out how to describe without sounding purple and overblown.

It's been a really good intensive so far, though. I'm getting a lot out of it, and I think that spiritual direction work will be a meaningful piece of my rabbinate. I'm looking forward to our spring semester (we'll fill two sections of a telecourse called "Issues in Hashpa'ah," so I'll get to hear at least half of my classmates' voices on a weekly basis) and to the summer intensive. Based on my experiences with DLTI, I'm guessing that week two will quickly become even more intense than week one because we'll have all of this week's relationships and experiences to build on.

For now, I'm looking forward to our last session in the morning -- and to seeing how the learning we've done over these incredibly dense four days will percolate in me and through me in months to come.


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